Alcohol and Your Personal Injury Case: The Civil Side of Drunk Driving

Alcohol and Your Personal Injury Case: The Civil Side of Drunk Driving
Drunk driving is dangerous and illegal. In fact, according to the National Highway Safety Traffic Administration, alcohol-related crashes accounted for over 10,000 fatalities in the U.S. in 2014 alone.  Under Florida law, a person is legally “drunk” if his or her blood-alcohol content is 0.08% or greater. However, any level of intoxication which impairs a driver’s “normal facilities,” whether due to alcohol or other legal or illegal drugs, could still be considered a violation of Florida law, especially if that impairment leads to a motor vehicle crash.  If an intoxicated driver is ultimately convicted of driving under the influence, he or she could face anywhere from loss of driving privileges to extended jail or even prison time, depending on the severity of the crash, level of intoxication, and prior record of the offender.  This is known as “criminal” liability. The other type of liability that an intoxicated driver may face is “civil” liability. This is different from criminal liability in that, instead of jail or prison, an intoxicated driver may have to pay money to the injured person or persons for any injury, damage, or death caused as a result of the crash. Consider the following scenario: you are driving home late at night from the airport and, out of nowhere, you see headlights coming straight for you. The next thing you know, you awake in the hospital with no clear memory of what happened.  You later discover that you were hit by a drunk driver, and he was arrested at the scene. He has not yet been convicted, but that can take time, and you cannot wait to be compensated for your injuries.  Fortunately, while the criminal justice system handles the criminal side, you can immediately move forward with your personal injury claim on the civil side. As with any personal injury case, in order for the intoxicated driver in the above-scenario to be held civilly liable for the crash, you, the “Plaintiff,” must first prove that the other driver was negligent in the operation of his vehicle.  In order to establish negligence in Florida, you must show that: (1) the other driver owed you a duty of care; (2) the other driver breached that duty of care; (3) the breach of that duty caused the crash; and (4) you suffered injuries as a result of his breach. In Florida, every driver owes a duty of reasonable care to other drivers, passengers, and pedestrians using the roadway so, because the other driver in this scenario was using the roadways at the time of the crash, the first element is met. For the second element, you would need to prove that the other driver breached that duty by driving drunk, which is most easily proven by a DUI conviction in the criminal court; however, that is not necessarily required in the civil court.  Next you would have to prove that the other driver’s intoxication caused the crash and, finally, that the crash resulted in your injuries.  While this may seem like a slam dunk, the insurance companies will likely still attempt to place some of the blame on you.  That is why it is important that you hire an attorney with experience in drunk-driving accidents, like the attorneys at Dennis Hernandez & Associates, P.A.  If you are the victim of a drunk driver’s negligence, call us today. We are here to listen to your story and answer any questions that you have.  As always, there are no upfront fees or costs.

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