Drunk Driving Accidents
Alcohol is a contributing factor in as many as half of all traffic accidents in Florida, causing thousands of injuries and deaths in the state every year. Driving under the influence of alcohol (‘DUI’) is legally defined as driving with a Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) of .08 percent or higher. Criminal penalties for drunk driving include the suspension of one’s driver’s license, monetary fines, and jail or prison time. People injured by drunk drivers may also bring civil claims for damages against the driver and, in some very limited cases, the person or business that served the person alcohol, with the help of a Florida injury attorney.
The legal principle of negligence governs drunk driving accidents in the same way as any other car accident claim. To prevail on a negligence claim, an injured person must show that the driver owed them a duty of care, that the driver breached or violated that duty, that this breach caused the injuries, and that the person has measurable damages as a result. All drivers, simply by taking a vehicle out on the road, owe a duty to others on the road to drive safely and to obey traffic laws. A person driving under the influence, by definition, has breached this duty of care to everyone else on the road. A plaintiff would have to prove that the driver was intoxicated, and then must show that the injuries resulted from the accident. An injured person can claim their medical expenses for their injuries, lost wages for time missed from work, future medical costs in some cases, and damages to compensate for the pain and suffering of the injuries.
Because driving while intoxicated is considered particularly harmful and dangerous, a person injured in a drunk driving accident may also be able to obtain punitive damages from the driver. Punitive damages are damages awarded to an injured person in an amount beyond the damages they actually suffered, in order to punish the defendant.
Dram Shop Law
Florida law provides limited recourse against a person or business who served alcohol to a visibly intoxicated person, if that person then causes someone injury. “Dram Shop Laws” refer to state laws that allow such claims under various circumstances. Florida’s laws are more restrictive than many states, only allowing an injured person to claim damages from a bar or party host under certain circumstances.
A person or business who serves alcohol to a minor, defined as someone under the legal drinking age of 21, is liable for damages that the minor causes while driving drunk. This is a strict liability standard in Florida; that means it does not matter if the server knew the person was under 21.
Florida courts have also said that a person or business could be liable for damages caused by a drunk driver if they serve alcohol to someone they know has an ongoing addiction to alcohol. Courts have reasoned that a person or business who knows another person cannot behave responsibly with regards to alcohol should be liable for damages caused if they serve alcohol to that person. Florida’s courts, however, have not always applied this rule evenly.
The Deerfield Beach injury attorneys at Goldman & Daszkal, P.A. represent people in Palm Beach and Broward County who have been injured by drunk drivers. Contact the firm through this website, or by calling our attorneys at 954-428-9333 for a free and confidential consultation to discuss your case.