Despite numerous public service campaigns and tougher laws, people continue to drink and drive. This careless behavior results in an average of 30 deaths a day in the United States. When a drunk driver crashes into your vehicle, it is a sudden and traumatic event that changes your life. Serious injuries place you off work, in the hospital, and away from home. It is a time of financial, physical, and emotional stress and of great uncertainty. If you’ve been seriously injured by a drunk driver, contact a Florida personal injury attorney without delay.
Why Do People Drink and Drive?
A recent government study found that more than 4 million adults in the United States admit they drink and drive. Researchers claim the number is probably much higher as not everyone will admit to such reckless behavior. Common reasons why people choose to drink include:
- To reduce stress
- To reward themselves
- To relax in social situations
The decision to get behind the wheel after an evening out with friends is all-too-common due to the following reasons:
- They feel more confident after drinking and think they are capable of driving.
- They claim they don’t have far to go and that they have no other transportation.
- They don’t believe—or they hope—they won’t get caught.
- An incredible 40 percent of friends let friends drive drunk because they’ve done it before.
No matter why people choose to drink and drive, their careless decision can gravely affect the life of another driver. Impaired judgment while operating a motor vehicle results in serious consequences for innocent drivers, including catastrophic injuries and sometimes death. If you’ve been seriously injured due to the negligent actions of a drunk driver, contact a car accident lawyer as soon as possible.
Drinking and Driving Among Teens
Obtaining your driver’s license is one of life’s important milestones. It symbolizes new-found freedom for teens and many choose to test the limits of their inexperience.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that teens tend to underestimate dangerous situations when it comes to driving. Their inexperience, according to the CDC, contributes to errors in making critical decisions, resulting in serious crashes.
When it comes to drinking and driving among teens, the numbers are alarming. A 2017 national Youth Risk Behavior Survey found that 16.5 percent of high school students admitted to riding with a driver who had been drinking alcohol within the previous month. An additional 5.5 percent of high school students who drive reported that they drove after drinking alcohol within the same one-month period.
CDC data from 2016 shows that 15 percent of drivers between the ages of 16 and 20 involved in fatal crashes that year had a BAC of .08 percent or higher.
Florida has a zero-tolerance policy involving underage drinking. For drivers under the age of 21, the BAC limit drops from .08 percent to .02 percent. Penalties range from license suspension to enrollment in an alcohol education program. Teen drivers under the age of 21 but with a BAC of .08 percent or higher face a DUI charge and the same penalties as those for adults.
Peer pressure is no reason for any teen driver to drink and drive. A teen drunk driver is just as accountable for their actions as an adult drunk driver. Their decision to get behind the wheel while impaired should not cause a lifetime of pain and suffering for you and your loved ones.
How Alcohol Affects the Body
Florida law declares anyone with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 or higher as legally impaired to drive. For drivers of commercial vehicles, the threshold is .04 percent. Alcohol reduces brain function, impairs thinking and reasoning, and limits muscle coordination—all necessary components for operating a vehicle.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), alcohol consumption of .02 percent begins to affect a person’s visual function. By the time the level reaches .05 percent, the effect is reduced coordination, resulting in difficulty steering and delayed response time to emergency driving situations.
A BAC of 0.08 makes the driver an even greater risk on the road due to impaired concentration and perception. Drivers at this level fail to maintain control of their speed and they experience short term memory loss.
How fast a person reaches a level of 0.08 depends upon a variety of contributing factors, such as gender, weight, and age. Combining these factors and consuming two or three drinks in one hour increases one’s BAC to 0.01 percent.
Many drivers feel a sense of false security that once they stop drinking, they are safe to drive. The fact is that the body does not automatically stop processing alcohol—it takes one hour for every beverage to metabolize out of the body.
Common Injuries from Drunk Driving Accidents
When a drunk driver crashes into you, it is a violent impact. The drunk driver may cross the centerline and hit you head-on or t-bone your vehicle in an intersection. No matter how it happens, the results are often catastrophic, requiring immediate medical care. Common injuries from drunk driving accidents include:
Traumatic brain injury – The CDC defines a traumatic brain injury (TBI) as a sudden bump, blow, jolt or penetrating head injury that disrupts normal brain function. A TBI can range from mild to severe, with more severe cases resulting in short or long-term effects on:
- Cognitive function
- Motor function
Patients with severe TBI often have difficulty with balance, memory, hearing, speech, vision, and controlling their emotions.
Spinal cord injury – The spinal cord acts as a relay system to the brain, controlling body movement. There are two main types of spinal cord injuries:
- Incomplete: With an incomplete spinal cord injury, some signals still pass through to the brain, resulting in limited movement.
- Complete: A complete spinal cord injury most commonly occurs in an accident where the nerves to the spinal cord are cut or severed. With a complete spinal cord injury, there is no movement.
Internal bleeding – Often a silent but dangerous condition, internal bleeding is best discovered using imaging tests, such as a CT scan. Internal bleeding occurs after one experiences blunt or penetrating trauma. It can occur anywhere in the body but it most prevalent in the head, around the lungs, around the heart, and in the abdomen.
Broken bones – While broken bones are quite common in car accidents, serious fractures require immediate attention. Infections and damage to blood vessels or nerves are serious concerns of more extensive cases involving broken bones.
Neck and back injuries – A broken neck or broken back are painful conditions that require a long recovery. After recovery, there is often various therapies, medications, and possible future surgeries.
The sad truth about a severe car accident caused by a drunk driver is that one or more of these types of injuries may occur. For many patients, there is no full recovery and life never returns to the way it was prior to the accident.
Some patients never return home due to their extensive need for personal care. For those who do return home, their new life in a power chair may require extensive home modifications or relocation to a community closer to a larger medical facility.
The projected lifetime costs of a spinal cord injury alone ranges in the millions. For victims of drunk driving accidents, there is often no end to their financial, physical, and emotional stress. When a drunk driver causes this much damage to your life or causes the death of a loved one, demand justice.
How a Florida Personal Injury Attorneys Can Help
All Florida residents and visitors to the Sunshine State have a right to travel our highways and city streets safely. Getting behind the wheel after drinking is a choice and a personal decision, albeit a poor one. From teen drivers to adults, the decision to drink and drive is a selfish one. Most drivers understand drinking and driving is wrong but choose the behavior anyway.
When someone chooses the behavior, then the victims must choose to fight for justice. No one should pay out-of-pocket for expenses that arise due to the negligent actions of others.
While we all take a chance every time we get behind the wheel, sharing the road in a responsible manner is what expect of ourselves and other drivers. A driver’s license is a privilege, not a right. Too many drivers take this for granted and partake in reckless behavior that causes serious harm on Florida highways and city streets.
The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV) reports that in one recent year, more than 5,000 alcohol-related crashes took place in the state. More than 3,000 of these crashes resulted in serious injury and more than 300 in death.
When an alcohol-related crash occurs, the responsible party faces serious consequences such as possible jail time, loss of license, and fines. For the victims suffering injuries due to no fault of their own, this doesn’t alleviate their immediate and future concerns. It is important for victims to seek accountability and justice for their new, unexpected, and unwanted circumstances.
It is most likely that insurance representatives will offer you a low-dollar amount in order to settle the case quickly. The offer may appear generous at first, however, most early settlement offers aren’t nearly enough for your future anticipated costs. Don’t let aggressive insurance companies bully you during this most vulnerable time—in fact, don’t even talk with them. Talk to a lawyer instead. Let your attorney deal with aggressive insurance companies while you focus on healing and recovery.
Recovering Compensation After a Drunk Driver Injures You
Depending upon the severity of your injuries, you may face a lifetime of medical procedures and care. These expenses are not cheap and they are important factors in considering your potential compensation.
You owe it to yourself and to your family to seek fair compensation for the negligent actions of the responsible driver. The best course of action is to retain highly experienced counsel. The sooner a lawyer reviews your case, the better.
Look for an accident lawyer familiar with Florida law who understands how to proceed with negotiations and litigation, someone who has helped many Floridians find justice both in and out of court. You want someone who takes great pride in customer service, who will treat you with the dignity and respect you deserve, and who will keep you informed of your case’s progress every step of the way.
Finding a person like that will give you peace of mind that your case is in good hands, resulting in one less—but large—burden off your shoulders.
Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33765