Tallahassee Drunk Driving Accident Attorney
Filing a Personal Injury Claim After a Drunk Driving Accident
Despite the fact that there are laws prohibiting it and the dangers are well known, drunk driving continues to be a major problem on our roadways. In 2020, there were 4,479 traffic accidents involving an alcohol-impaired driver in Florida, leading to 2,521 injuries and 334 deaths. More than 60 of those alcohol-involved accidents occurred right here in Leon County.
At Shapiro Law Firm, P.A., we understand how devastating drunk driving accidents are, not only for the victims but for their families and loved ones, as well. If you were injured or if your loved one died in a car crash caused by a drunk driver, our team is ready to stand up for you and your rights. As your Tallahassee drunk driving accident attorney, Paul Shapiro is prepared to put more than 25 years of legal experience on your side. He and his team have helped countless victims obtain the justice they deserved and the fair financial compensation they needed to heal.
Florida Drunk Driving Laws
Like every other state, Florida has specific laws prohibiting drunk driving. It is unlawful to drive under the influence (DUI) of alcohol or drugs, including both legal medications and controlled substances. To be “under the influence” means to be impaired to an extent that one is unable to safely operate a motor vehicle and/or to have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) that exceeds the legal limit.
In Florida, it is unlawful to operate a motor vehicle with a BAC of:
- 0.08% or higher for all private automobile drivers who are at least 21 years old
- 0.04% or higher for all commercial vehicle operators 21 and older
- 0.02% or higher for all individuals under the legal drinking age of 21
Those who violate Florida’s DUI laws face harsh criminal and administrative penalties, from jail time and steep fines to driver’s license suspension/revocation and ignition interlock device (IID) installation.
How Do Drunk Driving Accident Claims Differ from Criminal DUI Cases?
While individuals found guilty of driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs are subject to criminal penalties, these penalties do little to help the victims. The purpose of filing a personal injury claim after a drunk driving accident is to collect compensation for specific economic and non-economic losses resulting from the accident. Collectively, these losses are referred to as “damages.”
In a civil drunk driving accident claim, the person bringing the claim (known as the “plaintiff”) can seek financial compensation for the following damages:
- Current and future medical expenses
- Lost income/wages and other employment benefits
- Lost future earnings and reduced or lost earning capacity
- Pain and suffering, including emotional distress
- Lost enjoyment of life/lost life quality
- Miscellaneous expenses, such as in-home care costs
A civil claim or lawsuit is entirely separate from criminal DUI proceedings, and the outcome of a criminal case against the drunk driver who caused your accident does not necessarily affect the outcome of your personal injury case. However, if the driver is convicted of DUI, this can be helpful in proving liability in your civil lawsuit.
Who Is Liable for a Drunk Driving Accident?
In nearly all cases, the drunk driver can be held legally responsible for injuries and damages resulting from an accident they cause. This is because drunk driving is a form of negligence and a clear breach of the duty of care all drivers owe to others on the road. However, the drunk driver may not be the only liable party.
Under Florida’s dram shop law, it may be possible to bring a claim or lawsuit against an establishment or vendor who provided alcohol to the drunk driver. You will need to prove several elements, however, to have a dram shop claim.
To hold a restaurant, bar, tavern, or similar establishment liable for a drunk driving accident, you will need to prove the following:
- The vendor knowingly served alcohol to an individual who was “habitually addicted” to alcohol; OR
- The vendor “willfully and unlawfully” provided alcohol to a minor (someone under the age of 21); AND
- The vendor provided alcohol for the purpose of immediate consumption
Because the law specifies that alcohol must be provided for “immediate consumption” for dram shop liability laws to apply, grocery stores, liquor stores, and other establishments that sell alcohol not intended to be consumed immediately on the property cannot be held liable in drunk driving accident claims, even when they sell alcohol to a minor who goes on to cause a crash. Additionally, unlike several other states, Florida does not have laws allowing injured parties to sue social hosts when they provide alcohol to minors or clearly intoxicated individuals who later cause drunk driving accidents.
Protecting Your Rights After a Serious Accident
There are several important things you should do after an accident with a drunk driver to protect your health, safety, and rights:
- Seek Medical Attention: First and foremost, make sure you receive proper medical attention. Unfortunately, drunk driving accidents tend to lead to devastating injuries and fatalities, meaning victims are often treated at the scene and/or transported to the hospital for emergency medical care. However, if you were involved in a collision with a drunk driver and did not receive medical attention at the scene/were not hospitalized, you should see a doctor right away. After any motor vehicle crash, it is essential that you seek medical attention to rule out potential underlying issues and prevent future damage.
- Document the Accident: Next, if possible, try to gather as much evidence as possible and document the accident as best as you can. Make sure you get the other driver’s contact and insurance information and file an official police report. The best way to do this is to call 911 and have law enforcement come out to the scene of the accident. The police will likely conduct DUI tests to determine the other driver’s BAC, which will be invaluable to your future personal injury claim.
- Avoid Talking to the Insurance Company: After the accident, you should avoid negotiating with the drunk driver’s insurance company. Their adjusters will likely attempt to contact you—or even come to your home or the hospital—mere hours or days after the accident. They might offer a settlement to cover the cost of your medical bills. While this may seem like an attractive option, as well as the quickest way to get your bills paid and move on from the crash, we strongly recommend that you do NOT accept the insurance company’s first offer. Insurance adjusters’ only job is to limit payouts and save insurance companies money. They will not consider your ongoing or future expenses, not to mention the costs associated with your lost income and pain and suffering. If you accept their first settlement, you will almost certainly lose your right to file a lawsuit and seek the maximum compensation you are truly entitled to receive.
- Contact a Lawyer: One of the best things you can do after a drunk driving accident leaves you injured or struggling to cope with the death of a loved one is contact a car accident lawyer. At Shapiro Law Firm, P.A., our Tallahassee drunk driving accident attorney has more than two decades of experience fighting for the rights of injured victims and the families of those wrongfully killed. He and our entire team can help you navigate this incredibly difficult time in your life and fight for the fair recovery you are owed.
Don’t Wait Until It’s Too Late—Call Shapiro Law Firm, P.A. Today
In Florida, there is a four-year statute of limitations on most personal injury claims. This means that you only have four years from the date of the accident/injury to file a lawsuit; if you wait too long, you could lose your right to recover compensation for your medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other damages.
We encourage you to reach out to our team at Shapiro Law Firm, P.A. right away to learn how we can help you get back on your feet. The sooner our Tallahassee drunk driving accident lawyer can begin investigating and building your case, the better. We provide free initial consultations and contingency fees, meaning you do not owe us anything unless/until we recover compensation for you.