If an alcohol-impaired driver hurts you or someone you love, don’t hesitate to reach out to our experienced Palatka drunk driving accident attorneys. We can stand up for your rights and fight for the compensation you deserve. Our legal team obtained $2,500,000 for a client hit by a drunk semi-truck driver in one of our case results, showing how hard we fight to hold impaired drivers accountable for their actions and the harm they cause. Let us try to do the same for you.
Table of Contents
- What Is a BAC?
- How Alcohol Impairs Drivers?
- Signs of Impaired Driving
- Why Pursue a Drunk Driving Injury Claim?
- Palatka Drunk Driving Accident FAQs
- Consult Our Palatka Drunk Driving Accident Lawyers
What Is a BAC?
Palatka is in Putnam County, which had 1,490 arrests for drunk driving in one recent year. While this figure is down substantially from the early to mid-2000s, it still leaves many motorists and passengers at risk. In the same year, 814 individuals lost their lives in alcohol-impaired accidents. Of those, 68 were due to a drunk driver under 21. Thousands of other individuals suffered injuries, some catastrophic due to intoxicated drivers.
How do we know all those drivers were drunk?
When someone drinks alcohol, it goes directly from their stomach into their bloodstream. A BAC is an acronym for blood alcohol content. A blood alcohol content is the percentage of alcohol in an individual’s bloodstream at a given time.
Florida law forbids the use of any vehicle if you have a BAC of 0.08 percent or higher. Police officers can measure BAC with a breathalyzer or blood test. If a drunk driver caused your accident, their BAC can serve as evidence in criminal and civil court. Those with a BAC of 0.15 percent or higher can face steeper penalties for this already severe infraction of the law.
How Alcohol Impairs Drivers?
Alcohol can impair drivers with a BAC of less than the legal limit. Alcohol makes driving dangerous for its multiple effects on the human brain.
Drinking alcoholic beverages decreases an individual’s ability to think, reason, make wise decisions, and use caution—all of which are cognitive abilities necessary to drive safely. Poor judgment can impact their decision to speed, turn left when another vehicle is in their path, or simply not pay attention to the task of driving.
Alcohol restricts a driver’s ability to concentrate on multiple tasks such as speed, weather conditions, and the actions of other motorists—all of which are crucial for safe driving. Drivers must concentrate on the road and operate their vehicle in whatever the current conditions are. Lack of concentration can easily cause an accident.
In addition to concentration, drivers must comprehend what happens around them. An intoxicated driver is less likely to understand and obey traffic signals, traffic signs, or a hazardous driving situation. This can restrict their ability to respond properly and slow down, stop suddenly, or swerve out of the way to avoid a collision.
Alcohol consumption affects both fine and gross motor skills in drivers. It limits eye, hand, and foot coordination. This also makes it more difficult to react quickly and appropriately in an emergency. For example, if something suddenly appears in the road, the driver may realize it, but it will take longer for their body to react by slamming on the brakes or swerving to avoid hitting it.
Vision and Hearing
When a person is drunk, their hearing and eyesight are impaired. Their peripheral vision reduces, as does their ability to judge distances—which is essential to prevent a rear-end collision. Alcohol can also cause double or blurry vision. The volume and composition of fluid in the inner ear can also change with alcohol consumption, which can cause dizziness, imbalance, hearing loss, and more.
Alcohol slows down an individual’s comprehension, reflexes, and capacity to act fast in response to evolving driving conditions. For example, a driver under the influence won’t stop as quickly as a sober driver if the driver in front of them slams on the brakes.
Signs of Impaired Driving
Even a small amount of alcohol can cause unsafe driving conditions. Many people don’t understand that if they feel differently, they drive differently. Stay vigilant and keep your eye out for reckless drivers or ones you believe may be under the influence of alcohol or another substance such as prescription medications or marijuana.
Some frequent signs of impaired driving include:
- Fast acceleration and deceleration
- Stopping for no reason
- “Hugging” the center median
- Excessive speeding or driving strangely slow
- Remaining stopped for extended periods at stop signs or when a traffic light turns green
- Ignoring stop signs, red lights, and other traffic lights
If you or someone else noticed any of these signs or others before a driver hit you, be sure to tell your Palatka drunk driving accident lawyer.
Why Pursue a Drunk Driving Injury Claim?
If the drunk driver who hit you or your loved one is facing criminal charges, as they should be, you might be wondering why you should pursue a drunk driving injury claim. It’s imperative to understand the difference between a criminal drunk driving case and a civil drunk driving case.
Criminal Drunk Driving Charges
The state brings criminal drunk driving cases against drivers who were observed to be intoxicated or had a BAC above the legal limit.
If convicted, the driver can:
- Lose their driver’s license for a year or more
- Go to prison for between six and 12 months
- Pay thousands of dollars in fines
The severity of these penalties depends on the driver’s criminal and drunk driving history and mitigating factors such as if they had a minor child in the car while driving drunk. Injuring or killing someone can increase the penalties.
Civil Drunk Driving Claims
Even though the alleged perpetrator will likely face multiple penalties upon their conviction, a criminal case doesn’t provide the injured parties with compensation for their damages. This is the job of a civil claim, also known as a personal injury case. It is the parties with damages who file a civil suit. It can be victims of the accident, or if the victims are deceased, a personal representative can file a claim on their behalf.
Civil claims generally cite negligence, which involves the following four elements:
- Duty: The driver owed the victim a duty of care.
- Breach of duty: The driver violated their duty by drinking and driving.
- Proximate cause: The driver’s breach of duty was the direct cause of your accident and injuries.
- Compensable damages: You suffered damages, such as medical bills and pain and suffering from your injuries.
If your Palatka drunk driving accident attorney can prove that all of these elements exist in your claim, you will have a successful personal injury claim. This means you will receive compensation for your damages.
Courts conduct criminal and civil cases separately. A driver can receive a criminal conviction, but a victim can lose their drunk driving accident case. The opposite can also happen—a driver might escape a criminal conviction but be liable in a civil claim. Each case still relies on much of the same evidence supporting that the perpetrator was drunk under Florida law. Sometimes a criminal conviction can, however, help a civil claim.
Palatka Drunk Driving Accident FAQs
How Long Do You Have to File a Civil Drunk Driving Claim?
Similar to the criminal statutes of limitations, civil drunk driving claims also have a deadline. Victims or their families who wish to file a personal injury claim against a drunk driver have four years from the date of their injuries. However, this doesn’t mean you should wait four years or any appreciable time to contact an experienced Palatka drunk driving accident lawyer.
Four years can go by quickly, and your attorney needs time to prepare and file your case. It’s also essential to note that valuable evidence that supports your claim can be lost or damaged if not collected as soon as possible after your accident. As such, it’s in your best interest to hire a Palatka drunk driving accident attorney as soon as you can after being involved in a drunk driving accident.
Another reason to have legal representation as soon as possible is so that you don’t fall for any of the insurance company’s tactics to save themselves money.
- The insurance adjuster might offer you a settlement within days of your accident. While you might feel relieved to have a settlement offer already, the chances are good that the offer is much lower than what your case is really worth. Suppose you don’t speak to a knowledgeable Palatka drunk driving accident lawyer first. In that case, you might fall for this scheme and never know what your case was really worth. The adjuster hopes you are desperate for the money and haven’t yet talked to an attorney, so you will simply accept their low offer.
- The insurance adjuster might call and ask for your permission to record your conversation. They want to ask you questions about your version of the accident. While this might seem innocent, it’s often a way to twist your words against you or get you to say something detrimental to your case to alleviate their financial obligations to you. They can still attempt to do this even if they don’t record your conversations.
What Are Damages in a Drunk Driving Claim?
A civil claim attempts to receive financial compensation for your damages. Damages represent your losses, inconveniences, other hardships suffered due to the other party’s negligence. Drunk driving accident victims encounter many of these. Compensable damages cover two categories; economic/special and non-economic/general.
Special damages have an inherent value, as they represent your monetary losses.
They can include:
- Lost wages and income
- Medical bills such as those for the ambulance, emergency room, surgeries, hospital stays, doctor visits, and prescription medications
- Property damage
- Attorney fees
General damages are more challenging to value since they don’t come with a pre-attached value.
They often include:
- Pain and suffering
- Scarring and disfigurement
- Mental anguish
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Loss of consortium
- Loss of a limb or bodily function
In drunk driving cases, the court may award the victim punitive damages. While it is rare for the court to grant them, they are often appropriate when a drunk driver is involved. Instead of compensating the victim, punitive damages punish and deter the drunk driver from getting behind the wheel while intoxicated again. They prevent others from committing the same wanton and egregious behaviors. However, the court doesn’t just automatically award them to victims hurt in drunk driving accidents. Instead, you or your Palatka drunk driving accident attorney must ask for them in the suit.
Consult Our Palatka Drunk Driving Accident Lawyers
Motor vehicle accidents are serious events that can turn your entire world upside down. If a drunk driver is involved, this statement is even more true. You may be suffering from severe or even catastrophic injuries. Or perhaps you lost a loved one in a drunk driving accident. Whatever the case, you deserve compensation for the losses you suffer due to another driver getting behind the wheel after having too much to drink.
At Steven A. Bagen & Associates, P.A., we will be here for you every step of the way. Our Palatka drunk driving accident attorneys know you are facing difficult times. They are here to get you the compensation you deserve and will take care of every detail along the way. For over three decades, our firm has helped victims like yourself recover financially from the poor choices of drunk drivers.
Call us today at (800) BAGEN LAW or online for your free, confidential case review with an experienced Palatka drunk driving accident lawyer. We will review the facts and details regarding your accident to help you determine the next best steps moving forward.
My experience was more than great, from the moment I acquired about their services to the moment my case was finalized and settled, there was steady communication, and I was consistently in the loop. They explain things to you in a way that you can understand and ensure that you are involved in the decision making. Everyone is super kind and stays in contact with you even after settling. They truly care about your well being and I will definitely keep them at the top of the list for any other cases.