Drunk Driving Accidents
Experienced Florida Car Accident Lawyers for Drunk Driving Accidents
Drunk driving accidents are rather common on Florida’s roadways. According to the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS), within a nine year period, 8,476 people were killed in crashes involving a drunk driver. 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. Below, our Florida car accident lawyers discuss some of the unique issues encountered in drunk driving disputes.
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 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 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.
Punitive Damages Possibilities
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 Florida Car Accident Lawyers Experienced with Handling Drinking and Driving Accident Claims
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.