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Drunk Driving Accidents

Florida Drunk Driving Accident Lawyers Who Fight for Justice

Victims of Florida Drunk Driving Accidents Need the Help of Our Legal Team

Police conduct field sobriety test on drunk driver

Drunk driving accidents are rather common on Florida’s roadways. According to the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA), “[d]rivers are considered to be alcohol-impaired when their blood alcohol concentrations (BACs) are .09 grams per deciliter (g/DL) or higher.  

Drunk driving causes serious cognitive functions to be compromised while driving, making the ability to make proper decisions or respond fast enough to a sudden incident difficult. Drivers operating a motor vehicle under the influence end up causing danger to not only themselves but also to their passengers and other incident people on the roadways.  

According to the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS), within a nine-year period, 8,476 people were killed in crashes involving drunk drivers. Also, statistics show that the state of Florida has a higher percentage of adults who reportedly drive after drinking excessively. The stats are sobering, as they reveal the dangers that cautious, reasonable drivers are exposed to through no fault of their own. If you have been injured in a drunk driving accident, you are not without options. Under Florida law, you may be entitled to significant damages. Call an experienced auto accident lawyer at Searcy Denney today. Our team is standing by to fight for you.  Below, our Florida car accident lawyers discuss some of the unique issues encountered in drunk driving disputes.

Shocking Drunk Driving Statistics

According to NHTSA, about 32 people die each day because of drunk-driving accidents in the United States. This averages out to be about 1 death every 45 seconds! 

The 2020 NHTSA  Traffic Safety Facts report revealed that 11,654 people died due to drunk drivers in 2020. Some of the additional key findings from the 2020 report are highlighted below:

  • Fatalities in alcohol-impaired-driving crashes increased by 14.3 percent from 2019 to 2020
  • The 21 to 24-year-old age group and the 25 to 34-year-old age group had the highest percentages of alcohol-impaired drivers involved in fatal crashes compared to other age groups 
  • There were 4 male alcohol-impaired drivers involved for every female alcohol-impaired driver involved in alcohol-related crashes
  • 67% of the 2020 alcohol-related fatalities were in crashes where at least one driver had a BAC of .15 g/dL or higher 
  • The rate of alcohol impairment among drivers involved in crashes was 3.1 times higher at night than during the day

Statistics Involving Children

A total of 1,093 children 14 and younger were killed in motor vehicle traffic crashes in 2020. Of that number, 229 (21%) died in alcohol-impaired crashes. Below is a breakdown of the 229 child deaths from drunk drivers in 2020:

  • 57% were passengers of vehicles with drunk drivers
  • 28% were occupants of other vehicles
  • 13% were nonoccupants
  • 2% were child drivers

Crash Characteristics and Conditions

The 2020 NHTSA report analyzes crash data and presents various conditions and characteristics of the crashes that took place. Below are some of the findings from the report:

  • More accidents occurred in August and June/July than in other months, while April had the lowest percentage of accidents
  • 91% occurred in clear/cloudy conscious compared to 7% in rainy conditions and 2% in other conditions
  • 68% occurred in the dark compared to 28% in daylight
  • 88% occurred on non-interstate roads compared to 12% on interstate roads
  • 16% of all drivers involved in fatal crashes involving drunk drivers that occurred during the week as compared to 27% on weekends

Economic Cost for All Traffic Crashes

In addition to serious injuries and fatalities, auto-related crashes, including those caused by drunk drivers, also cause economic costs. In 2010 in the United States, the economic cost of all auto accidents was approximately $242 billion. Of that number, alcohol-related crashes cost approximately $44 billion. These economic costs included, for example, but are not limited to:

  • Medical costs
  • Legal costs
  • Insurance costs
  • Property damages
  • Workplace and productivity losses

Florida Laws Addressing Intoxication and Fault

Normally in car accident cases, the injured plaintiff must prove that the defendant-driver acted negligently under the circumstances.  For example, let’s say there’s a speeding driver who loses control of their vehicle and collides with a pedestrian.  Excessive speeding would constitute negligence and it is actually what caused the pedestrian to suffer injuries. This is a rather straightforward case, but these “fault” considerations can get complicated in other situations.

Fortunately, you do not have to worry about proving negligence or fault in a drunk driving accident dispute.  If you can prove that the defendant was intoxicated or “high” at the time of the accident, then it is not necessary for you to establish that the defendant violated the standard of care.  Their violation of the law (which prohibits drivers from operating vehicles while intoxicated) qualifies as a “per se” act of negligence, which means fault is presumed.

The challenge, then, is proving that the individual was actually intoxicated at the time of the car accident at issue and that their intoxicated state contributed to the accident.  Their impairments must be linked to the accident.  If a defendant becomes intoxicated but pulls into a parking lot and parks their car (which you then collide with), they may not actually be responsible for the accident.  Intoxication is not automatic liability, but it certainly makes it easier to find liability.

Criminal Proceedings Do Not Guarantee You Will Win Your Florida Drunk Driving Accident Claim

Oftentimes, drunk driving accidents lead to criminal litigation against the defendant.  As the injured plaintiff, this can be confusing, particularly if the defendant “gets away with” their crime of drunk driving. Specifically, you might be wondering if you will lose your civil lawsuit given that result. The answer is: No, not necessarily.

It is worth noting that criminal proceedings have stricter standards (“beyond a reasonable doubt”) than civil proceedings (“more likely than not”).  The defendant can be found innocent of drunk driving under the beyond-a-reasonable-doubt standard but be found liable under the more-likely-than-not standard. As such, our Florida car accident lawyers encourage clients not to use the criminal proceedings as a yardstick of success in a civil matter.

Our Lawyers May Be Able to Pursue Punitive Damages 

Bonus punitive damages may be available in your case, though such damages are only infrequently awarded.  In Florida, punitive damages may be awarded in cases where the defendant-driver acts maliciously, willfully, and/or with reckless disregard for the safety of others.  Drunk driving accidents may qualify, depending on the circumstances.

Suing Multiple Defendants for a Florida Drunk Driving Accident

If you have suffered significant losses that the defendant-driver cannot cover (they have minimal auto insurance, and minimal personal assets), all is not lost.  You may still be able to recover (at least partially) by suing other liable defendants.

In drunk driving cases, there are a number of defendants who can potentially be held liable besides the driver:

  • The driver’s employer (if the driver was intoxicated and got into the accident while acting within the course/scope of their employment)
  • A business served the driver alcohol despite them being underaged, or served the driver alcohol despite the driver being a known alcoholic
  • The owner of the vehicle if they negligently entrusted the vehicle to the drunk driving defendant

Contact Searcy Denney for a Free Initial Consultation with a Top Florida Drunk Driving Accident Lawyer

Here at Searcy Denney, our team of Florida car accident lawyers has helped thousands of plaintiffs secure favorable results in a variety of disputes, including car accident litigation that centers around a drunk driving defendant.

We understand the substantial difficulties faced by those who are struggling with the financial, emotional and physical ramifications of a drunk driving car accident, and we are committed to working closely with our clients from start-to-finish to ensure that their lawsuit is given the time, resources and attention necessary to maximize the likelihood of success.

Ready to learn more about your case and what you need to do to move forward?  Call us at 1-800-780-8607 or complete an online intake form to schedule a free and confidential consultation.

Hear What Our Clients Have To Say

"Nick DeBellis obtained the maximum recovery of full insurance limits in the case we worked on. He is a true professional and recommend him to anyone in South Florida."
Posted By: Michael Geoffroy