DUI Crashes in Florida

Driving while drunk is a crime in Florida. Most people know this, but they don’t know what it means to be drunk or legally impaired. The BAC levels below are accurate, however drunk driving cases are complex, so contact an experienced DUI lawyer for clarification. For adults who have a regular driver’s license, a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08 or greater creates the presumption of impairment. A person with a commercial driver’s license or CDL is considered impaired with a BAC of .04 of greater. For drivers under the age of 21, a BAC of .02 or greater is considered impaired. For any driver, an officer can find probable cause of impairment based on other factors such as driving pattern and field sobriety exercises without any recorded BAC.

Fast Facts On DUI Crashes

  • Most dangerous time of year: Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day
  • 1 in 3 odds of being affected by DUI
  • DUI’s cost $4 billion per year in Florida alone
  • Nothing good happens after midnight
  • 10,000 people killed are by DUI annually
  • Over 100 children are killed by DUI annually

Suing the Drunk Driver

When a drunk driver injures or kills someone in a motor vehicle accident, they should be held responsible for their actions. DUI crashes are unique from motor vehicle accidents that do not involve alcohol because they provide an alternate theory of recovery against the driver.

The driver can be held responsible for causing the accident by negligent, careless or reckless driving such as failing to yield the right of way, speeding, running a red light or hitting another vehicle or person from behind. The driver’s insurance policy will be responsible for compensating the injured person or the family members of someone who has been killed. This works the same whether or not alcohol is involved in a collision.

Drunk drivers are uniquely subject to punitive damages. These are damages which are awarded not to repay an injured person for their losses, but to punish the driver for deciding to drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs. These damages are paid by the driver (not the insurance company) directly to the injured victims or loved ones.

In the majority of cases, punitive damages are not a realistic option because many people who drive drunk don’t have the money to pay. However, in the event that a wealthy person caused a crash while driving drunk, he or she may be held responsible for punitive damages.

Can a DUI Conviction Help the Civil Case?

Absolutely! A DUI charge and ultimate conviction can help a civil case in a number of ways.

You can get a restitution order! The State Attorney prosecuting the drunk driver may ask you for documentation of your out of pocket expenses from the DUI crash. This could include medical bills, damage to your vehicle and other costs you have had to bear since the collision. The State Attorney then presents these bills to the Judge during the sentencing phase of trial. The Judge can then enter a Restitution Order requiring the drunk driver to compensate you for your loss.

This Order does more than require the driver to pay though. Even if he or she has no money to pay for your bills, it serves to prevent the drunk driver from challenging the fact that he or she was driving under the influence in your civil case.

There is a big incentive to settle! Although insurance companies only pay for negligent acts of their insured (and we consider DUI to be an intentional act), the insurance companies will compensate injured parties for their medical expenses, lost wages and other losses resulting from the collision. The insurance company will NOT pay for punitive damages but it may consider settling the claim rather than trying the case to protect their insured (the drunk driver) from having to pay punitive damages out of his or her own pocket. You see, punitive damages are only available at trial.

Have You Or A Loved One Been Injured By A Drunk Driver?

If you or a loved one has been injured by a drunk driver you should speak with an experienced drunk driver injury attorney as soon as possible. Contact us online or call our office directly at 727.446.0840 to schedule your free, no obligation consultation.

Jim Dodson
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A Florida injury lawyer, family man and avid cyclist who clients have trusted for over 25 years.