Florida is not only a fantastic place to live but also a great vacation destination. Many cities throughout Florida feature a vibrant nightlife and a number of establishments that serve alcohol. The unfortunate reality exists that a number of individuals who consume alcohol will also make the unwise decision of getting behind the wheel of a motor vehicle. As a result of this selfish decision, these drivers increase the risk of either themselves or an innocent motorist being severely injured in a drunk driving accident.
According to the most recent report released by the Center for Disease Control, drunk driving accounted for 9,967 deaths across the United States in 2014.1 This staggering statistic is even more daunting when considering that drunk driving accounted for nearly one-third of all traffic-related deaths. In Florida alone, 676 individuals lost their lives in drunk driving accidents; this was roughly 30 percent of all Florida traffic deaths.2
Driving Drunk in Florida
Florida law prohibits individuals from operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol and other illicit substances. Under Florida’s current law governing drunk driving, you are determined to be illegally impaired if your blood alcohol content (BAC) is .08 or higher.3 One’s BAC is affected by a variety of different factors including size and weight. This means that, for most people, consuming two standard 12 oz beers in one hour would put them over the legal limit. Despite being aware of the dangers of driving after consuming an illegal amount of alcohol, individuals choose to get behind the wheel. Getting stopped with a BAC of over .08 means that you can (and most likely will) be charged with driving under the influence (DUI).
Damages for Parties Injured by Drunk Drivers
As stated above, it is against the law to operate a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol. The state of Florida brings forth criminal charges against those stopped and charged with DUI. This can result in significant fines, time in jail or on probation, and even a loss of driving privileges.
Florida law also permits the recovery of damages by those who are injured in connection with a drunk driving accident. This right extends not only to the individual(s) involved in the traffic accident but also, in some cases, to family members directly impacted. Some of the damages which a victim or victim’s family may receive include:
In order to recover damages, the individual bringing forth a cause of action must know who he or she is allowed to sue. Below, we discuss some alternatives in bringing forth a suit to recover damages.
Suing the Drunk Driver
Many individuals have heard stories of drunk drivers causing a serious or fatal accident but themselves surviving, often with minor injuries. Whenever a drunk driver survives, he or she may be subject to criminal and civil action. Civilly, victims of a drunk driving accident have the legal right to bring forth a cause of action against the driver. These claims are separate from any charges brought by the state and allow for the recovery of necessary damages. This can include damages such as compensation for (likely expensive) medical expenses, lost wages for the time the victim requires to recover in order to return to work, and damage to the victim’s vehicle. If the victim is killed in the accident, the family may be able to bring forth claims of pain and suffering, emotional distress, loss of consortium, and unlawful death, all of which result from the untimely loss of the family member.
Victims, as well as family members, should seek legal counsel that can help assess and identify all potential damages to which the victim and family may be entitled.
Suing Establishment for Over-Serving A Drunk Driver
Across the United States, state laws mandate that only individuals who are of legal drinking age can consume alcohol. Moreover, establishments that sell or furnish alcohol may only do so to those of legal drinking age. Typically, these establishments are not subject to liability for drunk driving accidents caused by patrons as Florida does not extend liability to establishments simply because an individual becomes intoxicated.
Of course, exceptions exist. Establishments can be liable in two very specific situations. First, establishments that furnish alcohol can be liable whenever they “willfully and unlawfully [sell] or [furnish] alcoholic beverages to a person who is not of lawful drinking age”. This means that a victim of a drunk driver that is underage can bring forth a cause of action against an alcohol-serving establishment if it can be shown that the establishment willfully and knowingly served alcohol to a patron under the legal drinking age.
Liability also extends to establishments in cases of “over-serving” a patron. Florida law prohibits an establishment from providing alcohol to those individuals who are obviously intoxicated. Furnishing more alcohol to obviously intoxicated patrons increases the risk of drunk driving. Thus, victims are permitted to sue an establishment in this situation.
Contact the Dolman Law Group Today if You Are the Victim of a Drunk Driving Accident
If you or a loved one is the victim of a drunk driving accident, you need an experienced and knowledgeable attorney to help ensure you recover the damages to which you are lawfully entitled. The attorneys at the Dolman Law Group have the knowledge and experience to help you. Call us today at 727-451-6900 for a free consultation.