Last Update: 01/13/16
Sadly, all too often South Florida car accidents involve alcohol. Drunk drivers in Miami-Dade, Palm Beach, or Broward Counties are often driving a vehicle intoxicated, or with a “buzz”, because they were out having fun at a local hotel, bar, restaurant, club, theme park or traveling from a special event or sports arena. Unfortunately, that fun leads to driving under the influence of alcohol resulting in drunk driving accidents or DUI crash situations.
Who Pays in an Alcohol – Related Car Crash in Florida?
1. The Drunk Driver; Will the Injury Victim Have to Sue?
Under Florida law, driving under the influence (DUI) is a crime and a drunk driver who is found to have been operating a car, truck, SUV, or even a boat or JetSki, which is involved in an accident or crash can find themselves facing criminal charges. For example, under Florida Statutes 316.193 anyone who is driving a motor vehicle and is found to have a blood alcohol level of .08 or higher is considered to be legally intoxicated.
However, criminal law and civil law are two different things. Criminal proceedings do not pay injury damages to the injury victims in a drunk driving car crash.
Therefore, the intoxicated driver will also face a personal injury claim in which the injured party seeks compensation and recovery of damages resulting from the crash. Unfortunately, most of these injury claims result in the injured victim having to pursue a civil lawsuit against the drunk driver because the drunk driver’s insurance company is reluctant to pay a claim or offer a fair settlement.
2. Other Possible Responsible Parties
However, that drunk or buzzed driver is not the only party that may be held legally responsible for your damages sustained in a Florida car accident involving alcohol. Under Florida law, there are other parties (defendants), besides the drunk driver, that can be held to be contributors to the accident.
The other possible parties who may also pay for damages resulting from a drunk driving crash include:
- Bartenders or waitresses who continue to serve a person who seems under the influence of alcohol
- Hotel owners or operators of establishments (like nightclubs) where the person was drinking and got drunk
- Liquor store owners or operators who sold alcohol to someone who appeared to be intoxicated
Punitive Damages Are Available in Florida Injury Cases Involving Drunk Drivers
One distinct difference between other car accident claims and claims where the traffic accidents have intoxication is involved is the possibility of punitive (or “punishment”) damages being available for injury victims. Punitive damages are a money award payable to the victim in an injury lawsuit.
Punitive damages are available in these cases because the Florida Legislature has found it to be in the public interest to allow juries to assess damage awards that are entirely distinct from any actual expenses for the specific reason of punishing people who have caused harm and as a warning to others not to do what these defendants have done.
What Should You Do?
A good piece of advice if you have been harmed in an accident, is to at least speak with an experienced personal injury lawyer before you file a claim to learn about some of the issues that can arise with these claims, including the type of evidence needed to prove a claim and the type and amount of damages you can recover. Most personal injury lawyers, like Alan Sackrin, will offer a free initial consultation (over the phone or in person) to answer your questions.
Do you have questions or comments? Then please feel free to send Alan an email or call him now at (954) 458-8655.