Decades of dedicated efforts have decreased the rates of alcohol-impaired driving and alcohol-impaired fatal crashes in the U.S. since the 1980s. However, over 10,000 people in the United States die each year in crashes involving an alcohol-impaired driver.
Those injured in drunk driving accidents need to know that they have advocates at Steven A. Bagen & Associates, P.A. If you have questions about your rights or obtaining compensation after such an accident, contact one of our Gainesville drunk driving accident lawyers today.
Compensable Damages in Drunk Driving Accidents
It’s common to wonder what kind of damages and compensation you’re entitled to recover after sustaining injuries in a drunk driving accident. Compensation for your damages varies widely depending on many factors. Common economic damages you may be eligible to recover include:
- Medical expenses
- Lost wages and income
- Property damage
- Future medical costs
- Future lost wages
Potential non-economic losses you can claim include:
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of consortium
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Emotional distress
- Mental anguish
- Wrongful death
Your Gainesville drunk driving accident lawyer can help you determine the exact compensation you may be eligible for.
Victims of drunk driving accidents may receive punitive damages if their case goes to court. Punitive damages don’t compensate someone for their injuries or damages. Instead, they punish the behavior that caused the injury and deter the at-fault party and others from behaving (drinking and driving) in that manner. Only courts can award punitive damages and they only apply in cases where the at-fault party acted with gross negligence or intentional misconduct.
Florida’s Drunk Driving Laws
In Florida, operating a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level of 0.08 or above is a criminal offense. A DUI conviction can have various consequences depending on how many prior DUIs the driver has received.
For a first DUI offense in Florida, drivers will pay a fine between $500 and $2,000. If their BAC level is 0.15 or more or there is a minor child in the vehicle at the time they are driving drunk, the fine increases to between $2,000 and $4,000. First-time DUI offenders also must perform at least 50 hours of community service, have at least one year of probation, and might face as many as six months in prison or participate in a residential addiction treatment program.
If they are convicted of a second DUI within five years of the first, they will face a minimum of ten days of imprisonment on top of fines. Third-time convictions within ten years of the second conviction will result in a minimum of 30 days in prison.
Four or more DUI convictions result in imprisonment for no more than five years.
Also, note that all DUI convictions come with fines and the impoundment of the vehicle when the driver gets arrested. If this happens, the driver will need to pay the fees to the impound lot to get their car back.
In addition, convictions of three or more DUIs within ten years are classified as a third-degree felony, as is causing serious bodily injury while driving intoxicated.
Drivers who cause personal injury to another individual or property damage because of their drinking and driving will face a first-degree misdemeanor. Drunk driving crashes that cause a fatality will involve criminal charges that are much harsher and involve jail time.
Drunk Driving Accident Injuries
Approximately 29 people die every day, or one every 50 minutes in this country, due to alcohol-impaired drivers getting behind the wheel of a motor vehicle. Annually, these accidents come with a price tag of over $44 billion.
Florida is a hot spot for drunk driving crashes due to tourism and vacationers, especially during spring break and summer. While Florida roads saw a 33 percent decrease in fatal crashes involving alcohol, drugs, or a combination of both in recent years, 746 people still lost their lives last year.
Many factors determine the types and severity of the injuries that occur in a drunk driving accident. For example, the speeds of the involved vehicles, the types and sizes of vehicles involved in the accident, and if the driver and their passengers were wearing seatbelts at the time of the accident can all impact how much damage occurs.
Common injuries resulting in a drunk driving car accident include:
- Whiplash and other neck injuries
- Spinal cord injuries (SCI)
- Broken bones
- Back injuries
- Traumatic brain injuries (TBI)
- Strains, sprains, and tears
- Skull fractures
- Internal injuries and bleeding
- Amputations and loss of limb
- Paraplegia and quadriplegia
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
Suppose you suffered an injury in a motor vehicle accident caused by an impaired motorist. Get your injuries checked out immediately at the closest emergency room. Unfortunately, sometimes accident injuries don’t fully present until several hours or even days after a car accident. This makes getting checked out as soon as possible crucial to ensure your health and well-being and protects your legal rights by putting your injuries in an official medical record.
Dram Shop Laws in Florida
Most states, including Florida, have adopted Dram Shop Laws. In general, these laws allow certain parties to be held responsible if a drunk driving accident occurs, including:
- Social hosts
These parties can be accountable if they over-served the drunk driver. However, Florida’s Dram Shop Laws are different in that these parties can only be accountable if the alcohol was sold, served, or provided to someone not legally old enough to consume alcohol or to someone with a known addiction to alcoholic beverages.
Alcohol’s Impact on Driving Abilities
How much alcohol someone consumes will directly impact their ability to operate a motor vehicle. Currently, the legal limit in most states throughout the U.S. is 0.08 percent or about four alcoholic drinks. However, a driver doesn’t have to reach or surpass the legal limit to be impaired and have their driving ability impacted.
Typical drivers face experience the following based on their BAC levels:
- BAC of 0.02 percent (about two alcoholic drinks): Declined visual functions and ability to divide attention, altered mood, and some judgment loss.
- BAC of 0.05 percent (about three alcoholic drinks): Reduced coordination, difficulty steering a motor vehicle, decreased response to driving situations, impaired judgment, lowered alertness and inhibitions.
- BAC of 0.08 percent (the legal limit of intoxicated driving): Short-term memory loss, decreased information and visual processing, impaired perception, slowed speech and reaction times, and reduced ability to detect danger.
- BAC of 0.10 percent (about five or more alcoholic drinks): Reduced ability to brake and stay within traffic lanes, slurred speech, slowed thinking, poor coordination and control.
- BAC of 0.15 percent (about seven or more alcoholic drinks): Significant impairment and drastically reduced ability to drive a motor vehicle.
A standard drink typically means one with 0.6 ounces of pure alcohol.
Examples of standard alcoholic drinks include:
- 1.5-ounces of spirits or liquor
- 5-ounces of wine
- 12-ounces of beer
Even though the legal BAC level is 0.08 percent, drivers can still experience impairment at or below that level. For example, driving with a BAC level higher than 0.08 percent can substantially lower the driving abilities of even the best drivers.
Gainesville Drunk Driving Accident FAQs
Does Intoxication Equal Automatic Liability?
Although intoxication is obviously an issue in drunk driving accidents, it, unfortunately, doesn’t make for automatic liability in a drunk driving injury claim. As the injured party, it’s still up to you to prove that the drunk driver caused the crash and not them needing to prove that they didn’t. This is where quality legal representation and many forms of unique evidence become crucial to your claim. At Steven A. Bagen & Associates, P.A., we will do all we can to ensure that a drunk driver doesn’t escape liability due to a gap in your own case.
The Drunk Driver Who Caused My Accident is Facing Criminal Charges. Should I Still Pursue a Civil Case?
The criminal and civil court systems are entirely separate entities. However, issues in criminal courts can often give rise to a civil claim. This is true for personal injuries, including those sustained in a drunk driving accident. Even though the driver has criminal charges, you still have the right and should pursue a personal injury claim against them.
Even if they are convicted of a DUI, their conviction won’t provide you with compensation for your damages—only a civil claim can do that. Keep in mind that the results of a criminal charge have no bearing on those of a civil case and vice versa. For example, someone can escape criminal charges only to be found liable in civil court for the damages they caused. Although, if the individual who caused your accident gets convicted of drunk driving, it can help your civil claim.
It’s also worth noting that you may also still be entitled to receive punitive damages, even if the driver responsible for your accident received a conviction of DUI.
How Long Do I Have to Pursue a Civil Claim?
In Florida, the personal injury statute of limitations is four years from the date of the injury. This deadline means you have four years from the date of your accident to file a personal injury lawsuit. Although this might seem like a long time, it doesn’t mean that you should wait and do nothing until the deadline is near. The sooner you contact a Gainesville drunk driving accident attorney, the better off your claim will be. Not only will your attorney need time to prepare your case, but they can also begin protecting your rights as soon as you hire them.
If it becomes necessary to file a lawsuit and you don’t file it within the statute of limitation, you will lose your right to pursue compensation through the civil court system. Unfortunately, this means you have a very slim chance of recovering compensation for your injuries. Contacting an attorney as soon as possible after sustaining injuries in a drunk driving accident is imperative to receiving and maximizing your compensation.
Will My Injury Claim Settle or Go to Trial?
It can be challenging to predict which claims will negotiate a settlement and which will proceed to trial. In general, a very high percentage of car accident claims settle outside of court, especially when liability is clear. For example, in most drunk driving accident cases, it’s apparent that the drunk driver is liable for the damages caused. However, if there are other complex factors involved in your accident case, such as multiple parties who might be at fault or catastrophic injuries, your claim may need to go to trial for you to receive full and fair compensation.
For example, when you hire a seasoned Gainesville drunk driving accident attorney, they can provide you with an estimate of what your claim might be worth and if they think you might need to go to trial to get that amount.
Call a Skilled Gainesville Drunk Driving Accident Attorney Today
At Steven A. Bagen & Associates, P.A., we believe that drunk drivers should be held accountable for the damages they cause. They made a choice that resulted in devastating consequences for you and likely your family. Our legal system not only makes drivers answer for their behavior but also provides a way for victims to obtain the compensation you deserve for your injuries.
If you or someone you love was recently involved in a drunk driving accident, you need the skilled legal representation of a Gainesville drunk driving accident attorney from Steven A. Bagen & Associates, P.A.
Our Gainesville drunk driving attorneys understand the complexities of these cases and the injuries they cause. We’ve helped clients recover damages for serious and catastrophic injuries resulting from drunk driving accidents and even for the wrongful death of a loved one in a drunk driving accident. Call (800) 800-2575 today for your no-obligation case review, or contact us online.
Bagen Law Accident Injury Lawyers – Gainesville Office
6241 NW 23rd St, Gainesville, FL 32653
Phone: (800) 800-2575