Frequently Asked Questions
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What Happens in a Florida Drunk Driving Personal Injury Case?
In a personal injury case, the personal injury attorney you hire will handle your case against the drunk driver for damages like your medical expenses and other accident related expenses. The personal injury attorney will communicate with the driver’s insurance company and handle all correspondences so you don’t have to.
Driving under the influence is a completely voluntary choice that puts every pedestrian, cyclist, and motorist on the road at risk. At Jim Dodson Law we believe those who choose to drive drunk must be held accountable for their choices. We know every case is unique and we understand there is no adequate compensation for the injury and loss a drunk driver causes, but we do our very best to get everyone the compensation they deserve.
While most cases are not decided by a jury, predicting what a jury would do serves as the principle for arriving at the settlement value of a case. The purpose of a personal injury case is to try to make the injured person whole again or put them back in a position they were before the collision and resulting injuries. This requires an apportionment of fault for the crash, or in laymen’s terms, how much at fault was the drunk driver.
Regardless of how the collision was caused, the injured person will be covered by his or her own PIP/No-Fault for up to $10,000 in medical expenses and wage losses. Beyond that, the drunk driver’s bodily injury coverage should be sought. If the bodily injury coverage is insufficient to fully compensate you, you should seek reparation from your own uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage. The insurance company will be able to compensate you for accident related medical expenses such as physical therapy, medical devices and surgery.
Because drunk driving is a crime, DUI drivers may be required to pay punitive damages out of their own pocket. Punitive damages are intended to punish the wrongdoer. They go beyond simply compensating the victim and their family for actual losses. These tend to be larger sums and are the personal responsibility of the driver. In most cases, drunk drivers don’t have any money to pay punitive damages, but when they do they can be substantial.
In Florida, it is a very common problem that people choose to drive without insurance. The lawyer you hire must understand Florida’s uninsured/underinsured motorist laws so they can help you seek full compensation for your losses. It is your lawyer’s job to uncover all available insurance so that the victim and their families are adequately compensated.
At Jim Dodson Law we work with you every step of the way. We meet with you, listen to your concerns, answer your questions, and strive to obtain adequate compensation for you and your family. If you are the victim of a DUI crash and are unsure of what to do, call us at 727-744-0840. You are not charged a dime for meeting with us to discuss your case, and you will never pay us unless we settle your claim or win at trial.
What Happens in a Florida Drunk Driving Criminal Case?
In a criminal case, the first step is the arrest and prosecution of the drunk driver. After an alcohol-related crash there are several circumstantial factors that will be considered in determining how the drunk driver will be charged: Did he or she leave the scene of the accident? Were they driving with a suspended license? After the charges have been determined, the criminal justice system, operating through the Office of the State Attorney, is responsible for seeking punishment of the accused.
If you are the victim of a DUI crash or a surviving family member of a victim you may be called to testify as a witness in the criminal case. The State Attorney’s Office is responsible for providing services to help victims and their survivors during the criminal case.
Victims Advocates is another service provided by the state designed to work with victims and their families as they go through the criminal proceedings. They can offer recommendations for financial assistance to help deal with medical costs, lost wages, funeral expenses, and counseling. Victim/Witness Assistance is another service available to victims of DUI crashes and their families. Their job is to help guide victims through the criminal proceedings and answer any questions they might have.
Each criminal case is assigned to a judge who will impose a sentence after the case is tried or the defendant enters a plea with the state. In Florida, there are mandatory minimum requirements for each level of DUI. Some of the most common sentences include probation or jail, the Victim Impact Panel, community service, revocation of the driver’s license and an interlock device installed on the drunk driver’s vehicle upon reinstatement of the driver’s license.
The judge may also order the defendant to pay restitution to the victim or their family. This can be beneficial to your injury case because Florida law states that if the defendant is convicted of the offense and is ordered to pay restitution, they cannot later deny that they were driving drunk in a civil action. It is important to demand an order of restitution and let the prosecuting attorney know of all your medical expenses.
What If a Minor is Served Alcohol and Injures or Kills Someone in a DUI Crash?
It is considered common knowledge that it is illegal to serve alcohol to a minor. Florida has strict laws against serving alcohol to a minor and outlines who is financially responsible if something happens. But regardless of the law and what we know to be right, minors still find ways to consume alcohol. Sometimes parents do it thinking it is harmless fun. Sometimes a store owner sells alcohol to a minor without realizing it.
Under Florida law a bar owner, alcohol vendor, or homeowner who gives or sells alcohol to someone underage may be held liable if the individual is involved in an accident and kills or injures someone.
It is illegal for a minor to drive with a blood alcohol level of as little as 0.02. These BAC levels are based on a zero-tolerance policy for underage drinking that makes it a criminal DUI offense for drivers under the age of 21 to drive while under the influence. That means that even one small glass of wine could put a minor over the 0.02 level.
Florida has a criminal statute, the “Open House Party” law, which states that it is a misdemeanor to provide alcohol to minors at a residence. The purpose of the law is to protect innocent people who are injured or die in a crash caused by a minor who was served alcohol at someone’s house. Depending upon whether the minor hurts or kills anyone as a result of being served alcohol, the offense could lead to up to one year in jail for the person who provided the alcohol.
Florida’s law is designed to deter underage drinking and dissuade those who may be willing to provide alcohol to a minor. Parental responsibility is vital to educating and protecting young drivers against the dangers of driving while under the influence. For more information regarding DUI crashes and underage drinking, request a free copy of our Florida DUI Crash Victim Guide or give us a call at 727-446-0840. We have helped victims and their families through their experiences with death and injury caused by drunk drivers. Let us help you.
How Do I Spot a Drunk Driver & What Should I Do if I Spot One?
We have all watched the show “COPS” and think we can spot a drunk driver. The obvious way to tell is when a car swerves off the road and is driving too fast or too slowly. Those are just a couple of the many actions that can tip us off and let us know we are behind a driver who is intoxicated. Other actions include using improper turn signals, a car stopped in the middle of the road, tailgating, hugging one side of the road, quickly accelerating or decelerating, almost striking an object, not driving with lights on, braking erratically, and driving in the wrong lane.
The Logical Question That Follows Is, What Do I Do When I Spot a Drunk Driver?
When you see a car that appears to be driven by a drunken driver remember to stay away from the car. Do not pass or drive too closely to the car, because we know drunk drivers stop abruptly and swerve out of their lane. To make sure other people on the road are safe, it’s important to get the description of the car and a license plate number, if you can do it safely.
Call the police and report the drunk driver. You should tell the officers why you think the driver is drunk, give a description of the car, and let them know what direction the car is heading. Remember before you call, you should pull over to a safe location and stop your vehicle before using your cell phone. The road does not need a drunk driver and a driver on a cell phone all at the same time. It is important to solve the problem and not add to it by talking on your cell phone while you drive.
How Many Traffic Deaths in Florida are Caused By Drunk Dirvers?
According to MADD, there were 716 people who lost their lives to drunk drivers in 2011 in Florida alone. That means thousands of people lost loved ones they can never see again as a result of people choosing to drink too much and get behind the wheel. Thirty percent of all traffic deaths in Florida were a result of a drunk driver. These are senseless deaths that are completely avoidable.
In 1995, there were 717 fatalities due to drunk drivers. After years of raising awareness with public service announcements people still continue to drink, drive, and kill innocent people. Some people look at these statistics as mere numbers, but the numbers represent people. The people who are killed are survived by parents, spouses, and children. Losing a loved one can cause devastating emotional and financial harm. Never being able to say goodbye affects people in work, school, and every day activities. Lives are changed by the financial burdens of burial cost, loss of a bread winner, and unpaid medical bills.
We hear the cliché that “buzzed driving is drunk driving”, but it is much more than a cliché. If you feel anything other than normal after drinking you are impaired. It’s not worth killing someone and having to live with yourself knowing that you took a life. We have already addressed the problem, and it is time for individuals to finally drink responsibly.
Is it Illegal to Drive Under the Influence of Pills or Medication?
Everyone understands it is illegal to drive under the influence of alcohol. However, there is a common misconception it is fine to drive while taking your own prescription medicines. Most people fail to understand driving under the influence of pills is illegal if they impair you. It doesn’t matter if the pills are lawfully prescribed to the driver by their doctor.
The law in Florida says that it is illegal to drive a vehicle while impaired by alcohol, chemical substances, or controlled substances that includes prescription pills that impair a person. So remember before you drive your car, check your pill bottle to see if it tells you not to operate a motor vehicle or heavy machinery. If you are hit by someone you believe is under the influence of alcohol or prescription pills, tell the police officers when they show up after an accident.
Even though a person may not “blow over the limit” after hitting you, officers can determine if they are under the influence of a controlled substance after administering a field sobriety test. Many people commonly know the field sobriety test as the “finger to nose” and “walking the line” test. Officers test a person’s balance, eye movements, and ability to follow directions.
For the purpose of driving under the influence, impairment may be established by an officer describing a person’s demeanor and conduct. This means the field sobriety test is enough evidence for a person to get convicted of a DUI including prescription medication. When a person hits you with their car and is found to be driving under the influence, you can hold them financially responsible.