Having a couple of drinks with friends, going to happy hour, or enjoying a glass of wine or two with dinner are common ways for people to either celebrate an event or to unwind from a long day at work.
But have you ever stopped to think about the consequences of being pulled over for driving under the influence? While it’s common knowledge that it will likely involve an arrest, criminal charges, and a suspended driver’s license, it’s also important to note that in addition to that list of nightmares, you could also face a lawsuit if anyone was hurt and you caused the accident.
What is Considered Driving Under the Influence in Florida?
It’s hard to know with 100% certainty whether you would pass a breathalyzer or blood alcohol test. While feeling inebriated is obvious, being considered by law to be “under the influence” means a blood alcohol level of 0.08. You may feel relatively fine to drive, but it’s a fine line between legal and DUI.
Alcohol consumption affects people differently. Factors such as height, weight, body mass index, metabolism, medications, whether you ate a meal before drinking… all of these elements have an effect on how fast alcohol metabolizes.
You could carry a breathalyzer with you to be on the safe side. Or you could simply cut out the risk completely by opting for ride-sharing apps or carpooling with a designated driver any time you plan on consuming alcohol.
I was Hit by a Drunk Driver. Can I Sue?
Yes. Any time a person suffers damages (whether financial, property, bodily, emotional or life) the answer is yes, you can sue.
In a case of injury due to a drunk driver, you could file a personal injury suit for negligence or wrongful death. To prevail in either of these claims, you have to show by a preponderance of the evidence that the driver was negligent. (Side note: A preponderance of the evidence standard simply means that you proved that an event was more likely than not the cause of your injuries).
1. Negligence. You could file a claim for the direct damages resulting from the accident, such as medical bills, repairs to your car, loss of income, and mental anguish. In addition, you could request punitive damages based on the drunk driver’s gross negligence when he or she decided to drive under the influence.
It’s important to keep in mind that Florida is a comparative negligence jurisdiction. This means that if you were partly at fault for the accident (distracted driving, failing to obey traffic signals, failure to wear a seatbelt, or any other type of negligence on your part), the percentage of your liability will be subtracted from the amount of damages you can be awarded.
2. Wrongful Death. If you’re suing on behalf of a loved one who died as a result of an accident involving a drunk driver, Florida law establishes that the surviving spouse and minor children may recover the value of lost support, as well as future loss of support. To evaluate the monetary amount of such claims, the court will take into account the following factors:
– Deceased’s education
– Deceased’s net income
– Age and life expectancy (as relating to health) of the deceased, prior to the accident
– Age of any minors who were dependent
In addition, surviving family members can file a claim for loss of companionship, the mental anguish of having lost their loved one, and funeral expenses.
There are different approaches to recovering damages due to a car accident (regardless of whether someone was driving under the influence or not).
1. Special Damages. If your damages are over $10,000 you can sue the drunk driver or his or her estate if the driver died during the accident. You are able to file claims for every quantifiable amount resulting from the accident, such as medical bills, car repair, car rental, and loss of income.
2. General Damages. General damages include all losses for which you cannot compute a specific financial value, such as emotional distress or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
To enter into a settlement negotiation, both sides of the lawsuit will do what’s called “Discovery”. During this stage, both parties have the chance to review medical bills, reports from psychologists, estimates or appraisals of costs for repair, evidence of past income and future earning capacity, and anything else that substantiates the claim. Discovery may also require sworn testimony in the form of a deposition of all parties involved (people who were injured in the accident, witnesses, or doctors).
Call Clark Law Car Accident Lawyers if You Were Hit by a Drunk Driver in Tampa Bay
When you are involved in a car accident, the first thing to do is seek medical attention. The second most important thing is to consult with a personal injury attorney as soon as possible in order to discuss the details of your accident and determine the best course of action to recover damages.
Disclaimer: This blog is for informational purposes only and does not create an attorney/client relationship.