Some wounds are seen; some are not. If you or a loved one was injured or killed by a drunk driver in Florida, you know the feeling. Whether you’ve been forced to testify at multiple criminal hearings, lost your job as a result of your injuries, incurred substantial medical bills, or are suffering from PTSD, there is no limit to the trauma caused by the reckless behavior of a drunk driver. Florida law, however, is designed to take into account both the tangible and intangible damages suffered as the result of a drunk driver, and an experienced Florida car accident, wrongful death, and personal injury attorney can help ensure you get the compensation you deserve after a drunk driving accident changed your life.
Florida DUI Laws
Like many states, in Florida, it is illegal to operate a motor vehicle with a blood-alcohol level above 0.08. For some, it takes their bodies longer to process and expel alcohol and for others, they may simply lose track of how much alcohol they have consumed over the course of a long night. Many drunk drivers do not drive drunk intentionally but are unaware of how severely even a small amount of alcohol can affect their driving and reaction times. Unfortunately, such reckless behavior can result in serious injuries or the death of your loved one. Drunk drivers who cause such fatalities in Florida can be charged with “vehicular homicide,” which is a felony.
Further, Florida has instituted a “social host” liability law for those who either sell or furnish alcoholic beverages to either (1) a person under the age of 21 or (2) a person who is known by them to be a habitual drunk. If either of these situations is applicable, then the person who furnished the alcohol to the person who caused an accident can also be held liable for the victim’s injuries or death.
Why are Drunk Driving Accidents so Fatal?
It is one thing if a drunk driver with a delayed reaction time causes a “fender bender,” which can occur even if a driver was sober and simply not paying attention. It is another thing entirely when a drunk driver is driving 40 miles per hour over the speed limit on the wrong side of the highway, which is abnormal behavior for a sober driver. The fatalities and injuries associated with drunk driving increase with the blood alcohol level of the driver because the more the driver drank, the more likely the following symptoms will manifest while he or she is on the road:
- Impaired vision, hearing, and reaction time;
- Impaired physical control;
- Impaired balance, depth perception, and equilibrium;
- Dysphoria and confusion;
- Lack of physical control and blackout; and
- Respiratory arrest.
As you can imagine, if a driver is delusional, suffering from a medical emergency, or blacks out while driving, the results can be catastrophic and unpredictable.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD is a psychological disorder that can occur if you experienced or witnessed a life-threatening event, such as an accident with a drunk driver. It is important to recognize that, after a life-threatening event, it is normal to have nightmares, anxieties, and difficulties returning to regular daily activities, but these feelings should subside after a month. If you continue to experience these anxieties over the course of a few months and have not improved, you may have PTSD. Symptoms of PTSD include the following:
- Reliving the event through nightmares or bad memories;
- Avoiding situations that trigger those memories, such as refusing to drive after an accident;
- Increased negativity and depression;
- Hyperarousal, which includes startling easily and always being on alert;
- Trouble concentrating or sleeping;
- Anger and irritability, and
- Unhealthy coping behaviors, such as the use of drugs and alcohol.
There is really no way to tell who is more susceptible to PTSD after a car accident, and even children can experience PTSD, which may manifest through acting out, withdrawal, reckless behavior, and an unwillingness to be separated from their parents. Typically, the longer you experienced the life-threatening event, the more likely you are to develop PTSD. For example, if you are in a car accident and are trapped in an overturned car for an hour while firefighters have to free you, that is more likely to result in PTSD than a quick hit-and-run accident.
Recovering Compensation after a Drunk Driving Accident
Because PTSD is a legitimate disorder that can be brought on by a traumatic car accident, it is considered an “injury” for purposes of personal injury litigation in Florida. Further, if you suffered serious personal injuries as the result of an accident, Florida law permits you to seek monetary recovery for “non-economic” damages. “Non-economic” damages are damages suffered as the result of personal injuries that don’t have a precise economic value. For example, medical bills, lost wages, transportation expenses, and medications are all “economic” damages, meaning that they have a precise, calculable value. On the other hand, your “pain and suffering,” loss of enjoyment of life, and the anguish brought on by mental health issues don’t have precise values, and it is up to you, your Florida personal injury attorney, and a jury to determine the “value” of your suffering. When it comes to drunk driving accidents, especially fatal ones, there may be no limit to your non-economic damages. For example, a drunk driving injury may result in you having to change careers, where you live, or even how you go about daily activities, such as showering. This can cause serious mental suffering to you as the victim.
Contact a Clearwater, Florida Personal Injury and Accident Attorney Today
Losing a loved one or watching them suffer as a result of a drunk driver can be one of the most painful experiences of your life. It is one thing to suffer injuries as the result of a car accident when it was truly an accident. It is another thing, however, when an irresponsible and reckless driver takes to the road knowing that he or she is potentially endangering the life of an innocent. If you or a loved one has been the victim of a drunk driving accident, contact the Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA, your premier personal injury and car accident lawyers in the greater Tampa Bay area. They are here to fight for your right to compensation after a drunk driver has injured you. Contact them today online or at (727) 451-6900 for a free, no-risk consultation.