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 you could face a lawsuit if anyone was hurt and you caused the accident.
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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 risky line between legal and DUI.
Alcohol consumption affects people differently. Factors such as height, weight, body mass index, metabolism, medications, and whether you ate a meal before drinking can all impact how fast alcohol metabolizes.
To be on the safe side, you could carry a breathalyzer when you go out drinking. But, the safest route is to opt for a ride-sharing service — such as Uber, Lyft, or a taxi — or carpool with a designated driver.
I was hit by a drunk driver, can I sue?
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. A preponderance of the evidence standard simply means that you proved that an event was more likely than not the cause of your injuries.
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, such as from 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
3. Special Damages
If your damages are more than $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.
4. General Damages
General damages include all losses for which you cannot compute a specific financial value. This includes emotional distress or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In the case of a wrongful death accident, 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. These damages are typically categorized by being physical or mental.
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, and/or doctors).
How an Attorney Can Help
If you’ve been hit by a drunk driver, whether you’ve been hurt or not, the last thing you want to do is deal with the hassle of collecting evidence for litigation. But, time is of the essence with some evidence — including witness testimony and surveillance video. So, you don’t have time to waste.
That’s why it’s crucial that you call an attorney specializing in car accidents immediately. They’ll be able to collect all the pieces of evidence you need during the discovery process — giving you the best chance of success. And, they’ll fight on your behalf so that you can focus on resting and recovering instead of stressing about negotiations.
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.