Experienced Fort Lauderdale Drunk Driving Accident Lawyer to Fight for Your Compensation
DUI Accidents Could Have Been Prevented. Let Our Lawyers Recover the Compensation You Deserve.
Drunk driving accidents are serious events that can have life-changing consequences for victims and their families. Despite the presence of rideshare services (i.e., Uber, Lyft, etc.) that make it easier than ever to find a safe ride home after a night of drinking, drivers still routinely violate the law and operate their vehicle “under the influence.” According to data recorded by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, throughout the United States, nearly 30 people die in drunk driving-related crashes on a daily basis — a staggering number. If you’ve been harmed in a drunk driving accident in Florida, then you may have a legal claim against the driver for damages. Drunk driving litigation does not necessarily proceed in the same way as “standard” auto accident litigation, as the circumstances of the accident typically require different legal strategies. As such, it’s important that you consult with an experienced Fort Lauderdale car crash law firm for guidance on how to move forward with your claim.
How Much Can You Drink in Florida and Still be Under the Legal Limit?
The amount of alcohol that a person can have in their blood and legally operate a motor vehicle varies by state and is called your “blood alcohol content.” There are three categories of legal BAC, blood alcohol content that constitutes the legal limit. Having over the legal limit can cause a driver to be charged with driving under the influence (DUI).
The strictest measure of the legal limit for alcohol is for drivers under the age of 21. For that group, a BAC in excess or .02% will trigger a DUI charge. If you are 21 or older, the amount increases to .08%. Operators of commercial vehicles are limited to a BAC of .04%.
Determining the amount of alcohol in a person’s blood is an inexact science, and a breathalyzer is a device that police use to record blood alcohol level. Before a person goes out to dinner or to a bar or consume alcohol and drive, they should know the estimated amount that they can drink before you are considered illegal. The amount varies based on one’s weight. For an average person weighing 180 lbs, the number of drinks that they can consume is approximately 2, 12 oz beers, 2, 5 oz glasses of wine or 2 shots of liquor. In contrast, for an individual weighing 120 or less, the number goes down to 1 drink, while a 240 lb. person could drink up to 3 drinks. These numbers are only a reference and should not be relied upon to determine whether or not you have a legal blood alcohol level. It is always best to have no alcohol in your system when operating a motor vehicle as a car accident could occur in many other situations.
Sometimes a person will consume under the legal limit of alcohol, get pulled over, and still be charged by police with DUI. Police errors in administering the breathalyzer test, insufficient training, and faulty equipment all contribute to inaccurate readings and over-zealous charges. Some people have pre-existing medical conditions that prohibit them from being able to perform the field sobriety tests. Still others are taking prescription medications in legal quantities that will cause the tests to produce false positive results.
It’s important to remember, that even if a person is not found guilty of a DUI, you can still will damages for your injuries in a drunk driving accident. A Fort Lauderdale drunk driving accident attorney at the Maus Law Firm is happy to provide you with a free consultation to discuss how we can handle your claim.
Does It Help My Injury Claim if the Other Driver is Convicted of DUI?
A DUI conviction can help with a civil claim for damages following a drunk driving accident. Recovering financial compensation for a car accident requires proof of negligence, and violating Florida’s drunk driving statute is considered “negligence per se.” This means that you only need to prove that the other driver violated the statute in order to establish liability. While it is often possible to prove drunk driving through other means (i.e. based on the other driver’s confession), being able to rely on a DUI conviction can make it easier to prove your right to just compensation.
With that said, if the other driver isn’t convicted, you could still have a very strong claim for just compensation. This is because the standards in civil and criminal cases are different. Even if prosecutors were not able to prove the other driver’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt (99%-plus), your lawyer may still be able to meet the lower standard of proving liability by a preponderance of the evidence (51%-plus) that applies in civil cases.
Does the Other Driver’s BAC Make a Difference for My Drunk Driving Claim?
No, if the other driver was drunk behind the wheel, it doesn’t really matter how drunk he or she was at the time of the collision (for your civil case—higher BACs can increase the penalties in criminal cases). So, for purposes of your claim for financial compensation, a BAC of 0.08% and a BAC of 0.15% are likely to have the same consequences.
In fact, even if the driver’s BAC was below the legal limit (or if the responding officer didn’t test the driver’s BAC), you could still have a claim for damages. There are other ways to prove a driver’s drunkenness, and Florida’s DUI statute allows for conviction based on evidence that a driver was “under the influence” regardless of his or her BAC.
Can a Fort Lauderdale DUI Accident Lawyer Help Me If I was Partially At Fault?
What if the drunk driver isn’t the only one who made a mistake? What if you were speeding, or what if you could have swerved to avoid the drunk driver if it weren’t for the fact that you were texting behind the wheel?
In cases involving shared liability, accident victims’ rights are determined based upon Florida’s law of “pure comparative fault.” In a nutshell, when you are partially at fault in a car accident, the amount you can recover is reduced in inverse proportion to your percentage of liability. So, for example, if you were 20% at fault in your car accident, you would be entitled to recover 80% of your accident-related losses under Florida law.
In drunk driving accident cases, insurance companies will often attempt to reduce their liability by arguing comparative fault. However, even if you think you may have been partially at fault in your accident, under no circumstances should you assume that your financial recovery will be limited. A comprehensive investigation may reveal that there was nothing you could have done to avoid the drunk driver or mitigate your injuries. If this is the case, you are still entitled to recover 100% of your accident-related losses.
Punitive Damages Could Be Awarded in Florida with the Help of a Fort Lauderdale Drunk Driving Accident Lawyer
Punitive damages are rare, which may come as a surprise to many accident victims. In a dispute involving punitive damages, plaintiffs may be awarded up to seven times the total compensatory damages, thus leading to multimillion-dollar, record-breaking recoveries. Naturally, if punitive damages could be available in your car accident case, it’s important to consult with a Fort Lauderdale car crash law firm as soon as possible to start your claim.
The reasoning behind an award of punitive damages is different than that of other car accident damages, however — punitive damages are not awarded to help the victim, but are instead meant to punish the defendant and discourage others from engaging in similar bad behavior.
In Florida, punitive damages are only available in cases where the defendant has engaged in malicious, willful, and/or wanton behavior — drunk driving accidents included, though the circumstances must be such that it is indicative of particularly extreme behavior on the part of the drunk driver. For example, if a drunk driver was found bragging to his friends about how he was going to be driving drunk later that evening, then the court might find the driver’s behavior proof of a willing disregard for the safety of others and rule for an award of punitive damages.
Liability for Third-Party Defendants in Drinking and Driving Accidents
In drunk driving accident litigation, it’s important to consider the possibility of suing other defendants besides the driver — this is especially relevant if the driver is uninsured or has inadequate insurance to cover all your losses.
Dram Shop Liability
In Florida, businesses may be held liable under a theory of “dram shop liability” if they serve alcohol to minors, or if they serve alcohol to a person who is clearly intoxicated already or who is a known alcoholic.
For example, if you are injured by a 16-year old driver who was intoxicated at the time of the accident, and you discover that they were served alcohol by a local bar that did not check their ID, then you may be able to sue the bar for damages.
Florida law entitles plaintiffs to sue and recover damages from the owner of a vehicle who negligently entrusted their vehicle with the drunk driver. To succeed, your Fort Lauderdale drunk driving accident attorney will show that the owner knew or should have known that the driver was going to operate the vehicle while intoxicated, or that the driver had a history of drunk driving.
Negligent Hiring and Supervision
If you are injured by a drunk driver who was intoxicated and operating the vehicle on-the-job (i.e., in the course and scope of their employment), then you may be able to bring an independent action against their employer for negligent hiring and supervision. Employers have a responsibility to evaluate the drunk driving history of employees who will be operating vehicles for work, and further, to supervise employees to ensure that they are not “under the influence” while operating vehicles for work.
What if the Drunk Driver Wasn’t Considered Legally Drunk?
It is important to remember that in a personal injury lawsuit to recover damages for injuries, a driver does not have to be drunk or even reckless. All you need to prove in a personal injury case is that the driver was negligent. That means they owed a duty to behave responsibly toward you, and they failed to fulfill that responsibility.
All drivers owe a duty to others to follow the rules of the road and pay attention to conditions so they can drive safely. When a driver has consumed alcoholic beverages, the alcohol can impair their judgment and prevent them from operating responsibly. Studies have shown that alcohol decreases the ability to rationally evaluate a situation, and it slows reflexes. It also often creates a sense of invincibility. These factors negatively impact a driver’s ability to avoid an accident. A driver can be considered negligent without having a blood alcohol concentration anywhere near the legal limit for DUI. Drunk driving is considered negligent, but not all negligence involves drunk driving.
Should I Wait Until After the Criminal Trial for DUI to Contact a Fort Lauderdale Drunk Driving Accident Lawyer?
If the driver who caused an accident is found guilty of a DUI offense in a criminal trial, then that driver is automatically considered negligent, making it easier to recover damages in a civil action for personal injury. However, it is not necessary to wait for the outcome of a criminal trial to start preparing for a car accident claim.
The best time to collect evidence to show liability is right after the accident, so it is a good idea to consult a personal injury lawyer for assistance as soon as possible afterward. A lawyer could also determine whether it might be possible to pursue damages against a third party.
What if the Drunk Driver Doesn’t Have Auto Insurance?
If you were injured in an accident caused by a drunk driver without liability insurance, your losses may be covered by your own personal injury protection coverage and insured motorist coverage. Check your policy details carefully. If your insurance carrier wrongfully refuses to pay, you should consult an attorney for assistance with enforcing your rights as a policyholder. An attorney could also review the circumstances for possible third-party liability.
If the Intoxicated Driver Was Also Injured, Can They Sue Me for Their Injuries?
The comparative fault rule in Florida allows someone to seek damages for injuries even when they were primarily at fault for causing those injuries. That means if you were in a car accident with a drunk driver, but your own mistakes were also to blame for causing the accident, you could still recover for the percentage of damage caused by the other driver’s negligence.
Does that mean the other driver can recover damages from you, too? It depends on the circumstances. If the other driver had a blood alcohol concentration of .08 percent or their normal faculties were impaired by alcohol and that intoxication made the driver 50 percent or more at fault for their own injuries, Florida Statute §768.36 prevents them from filing a claim to recover damages from anyone else, including you.
Contact Our Fort Lauderdale Drunk Driving Accident Law Firm for a Free Consultation
If you’ve sustained injuries in a motor vehicle accident involving a drunk driver, then you may be entitled to significant damages as compensation for your injuries and losses. Drunk driving accident claims are full of unique challenges and opportunities — as such, it’s critical that you work with an experienced Fort Lauderdale drunk driving accident lawyer for comprehensive guidance on how to not only successfully obtain compensation, but also to maximize that recovery.
Here at Maus Law Firm, our team has decades of experience working with motor vehicle accident plaintiffs throughout Florida, helping them at every stage of the personal injury litigation process, from pre-suit actions all the way through to trial. Our Fort Lauderdale drunk driving accident attorneys are aggressive client advocates with practical courtroom experience — unlike many of our competitors, we are willing and able to to take our cases to the courtroom.
Ready to speak to the Maus Law Firm? Call us at 1-855-999-5297 or complete an online contact form to schedule a free and confidential consultation today.