Fort Lauderdale Drunk Driving Accident Lawyers
Drunk drivers pose a danger to Fort Lauderdale drivers and their loved ones. If you suffer injuries or the death of a loved one due to a drunk driver in Fort Lauderdale, contact the dedicated Fort Lauderdale drunk driving attorneys at the Levin Firm. We will discuss your case in a free initial consultation.
Victims of drunk drivers can experience physical pain, trauma, financial stress, and even rage. Do not go through the aftermath of a drunk driving accident alone. We will fight to see that justice is done.
Drunk Driving in Fort Lauderdale
In one recent year, 403,626 vehicle accidents occurred throughout the state. These led to 3,135 fatalities and 255,353 injuries statewide, according to Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV) data. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, drunk drivers caused approximately 26 percent of the fatalities. The FLHSMV has indicated that roughly 15 percent of the injuries involve a drunk driver.
If a driver’s blood alcohol content (BAC) is 0.08 or above, they may receive a charge of driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol. Drivers convicted of a DUI charge face severe penalties, including fines, jail time, revocation of their driver’s license, and the possible installation of an ignition interlock device on their vehicle, which prohibits operation if they try to turn on the ignition while inebriated.
Drivers under the age of 21 can receive a DUI charge if their BAC is 0.02 or above.
These steep penalties are designed to curtail and end drunk driving as much as possible. While drunk drivers may feel they can operate their vehicles, the evidence shows that people who have had even a small amount of liquor are impaired behind the wheel.
Drunk drivers show delayed response time, impaired judgment, and slowed reflexes. These are all factors that make them not just drunk drivers, but dangerous drivers. Drunk driving claims enough lives and causes enough injuries to be considered a major public health concern, as well as a traffic accident concern.
Potential Injuries in a Drunk Driving Accident
Folks injured in a drunk driving accident can suffer a wide gamut of injuries, from the relatively minor to the catastrophic. An injury is termed “catastrophic” if it exerts an immediate negative impact on the victim’s life.
The paralysis of one or more limbs, for example, constitutes a catastrophic injury. They may require assistance even to bathe or dress, and may not retain the ability to work and earn a living. As a result, they may require around-the-clock care and suffer a decrease in income.
People hurt in a drunk driving accident may suffer the following.
- Soft tissue injuries
- Fractured bones
- Internal injuries
- Traumatic brain injury (TBI)
- Spinal cord injury (SCI)
- Nerve damage
- Amputation or missing or damaged body parts, such as eyes
- Scars and disfigurement
Obtaining Damage Compensation From a Fort Lauderdale Drunk Driver
Florida operates under a no-fault system for car insurance. In other words, if you suffer injuries or other harm in a car accident, you turn first to your own car insurer for payment of your damages. This is quite different from the fault system used in some states, where an injured party can approach the at-fault driver for damage compensation.
All drivers of a registered vehicle in Florida must buy the minimum insurance coverage:
- $10,000 in personal injury protection (PIP), at a minimum
- $10,000 in personal damage liability (PDL) for property damage, at a minimum
As you can see, however, these coverages are quite low. Treatment of even a minor injury can approach the limit. Treatment of catastrophic injuries can cost in the millions, once all care is added together. What does one do if their PIP and PDL coverages do not cover damages from a drunk driver?
As a result, the law allows seriously injured people to pursue Fort Lauderdale drunk driving accident claims. The advantage of this to injured people is that they can seek damage compensation against the at-fault party for the full amount of their injuries.
To step outside of the no-fault system and file a Fort Lauderdale drunk driving accident claim, you must have suffered one or more of these injuries:
- Broken bones
- Significant disfigurement
- Permanent limitation of a body organ or member’s use
- A significant limitation of a body function or system’s use
- Substantially full disability for 90 days
In Fort Lauderdale drunk driving accident claims, another party must bear fault for causing the accident or contributing to it. Fault can depend on negligence. Negligence is a violation of the duty of care owed to the public.
Drivers owe a duty of care to operate their vehicles safely and follow all laws. Arguably, a driver who operates a vehicle while drunk is already negligent, as a DUI is against the law and leads to unsafe operation all too frequently. But specific actions that cause an accident, such as trying to run a red light or speeding, are also arguably negligent because they violate both the law and the principles of safe driving.
Other parties can exhibit negligence that causes a drunk driving accident, however. For example, car manufacturers also owe a duty of care to the public. Their cars should be safe to drive and free of defects. If a recall is required, the manufacturers need to follow appropriate steps.
Car repair businesses also owe a duty of care. They should perform inspections, maintenance, and repairs well, uncovering and fixing any problems and never creating any issues that could impair the safe driving of the car.
If a manufacturing or repair issue causes an accident, the car manufacturer or repair business could potentially bear responsibility.
Victims of car accidents need to know who or what caused the accident if they wish to bring a Fort Lauderdale drunk driving accident lawsuit. Their injuries also must stem directly from the accident, and not some other cause.
Damage Compensation in Fort Lauderdale
If you bring a Fort Lauderdale drunk driving accident lawsuit, you could seek damage compensation for:
- Medical expenses, both already incurred and future – For emergency transport, emergency room treatment, diagnostic tests, doctor’s visits, hospitalization, surgery, prescription medication, assistive devices, retrofitting a home to accommodate a disability, and more.
- Income lost from work – For earnings lost due to time off work related to the accident and treatment of related injuries.
- The lifetime value of earnings – If injuries make it impossible to work at a former occupation.
- Property damage – For lost or damaged personal property, such as a car.
- Pain and suffering – For physical, emotional, and mental pain and suffering.
How Alcohol Affects a Person’s Ability to Drive
While not everyone feels the effects of that first drink, the effects are there. According to the NHTSA, a person can have a blood alcohol level as low as 0.02 and experience loss of judgment, altered mood, artificial relaxation, and a slight increase in body temperature. Just this small amount of alcohol causes a person to lose the ability to accurately follow a moving target and decreases a person’s ability to do two tasks simultaneously, such as watching the road and keeping the vehicle in their designated travel lane.
At a blood alcohol level of 0.05, the average person’s behavior becomes exaggerated. The person might lose a certain amount of muscle control, be less alert, experience impaired judgment, feel “good,” and lose some of their inhibitions. A driver’s coordination suffers, which means that the driver cannot properly respond to unexpected situations on the road and may have difficulty steering. Tracking moving objects, such as another vehicle on the road, becomes even more difficult.
By the time a driver reaches 0.08 blood alcohol level, they have poor muscle coordination, which affects their reaction time, speech, vision, and balance. The driver’s judgment becomes poor and their memory and reasoning become impaired. This affects driving because the drunk driver cannot properly process information, cannot properly control the speed of the vehicle, and often cannot comprehend signals, such as a red light.
By the time a drunk driver hits 0.10 blood alcohol level, it’s difficult to stay in their travel lane, and the driver probably cannot brake properly. At a 0.15 blood alcohol level, the drunk driver loses substantial control of the vehicle and can no longer properly process visual and auditory information.
Consequences of Driving Under the Influence
A person who drives under the influence can suffer serious consequences. First, they will most likely face criminal charges. Secondly, if the drunk driver causes an accident, injures someone, or kills someone, the injured person or the family of the person who lost their life in the drunk driving accident can sue the driver for damages. While the insurance company will pay for some of the costs associated with accident-related damages, insurance policies have limits. If the injured person has suffered more damages than their own insurance can cover, they can sue the drunk driver for those additional damages.
For a first offense, a driver faces up to $1,000 in fines or, if they had a minor in the vehicle, up to $2,000. Furthermore, if the driver’s blood-alcohol level was 0.15 or higher, they could face a fine of up to $2,000 for a first offense. The drunk driver could also be sentenced to up to six months imprisonment, or nine months if a minor was in the vehicle or the driver’s blood-alcohol level was 0.15 or higher.
For a second offense, the driver faces up to $2,000 in fines or $4,000 if a minor was in the vehicle or the driver’s blood-alcohol level was 0.15 or higher. The drunk driver could also be sentenced to imprisonment for up to nine months or 12 months if a minor was in the vehicle or the driver’s blood-alcohol level was 0.15 or higher.
A third conviction results in fines of up to $5,000. While the fines are the same for a third conviction regardless of how long it has been since the second conviction, the jail time is not. If the driver’s third conviction is within 10 years of the second, jail time is a 30-day mandatory sentence with at least 48 hours of that being consecutive. If the third offense is 10 years after the second conviction, the drunk driver could receive up to 12 months in jail.
A fourth conviction comes with a minimum fine of $2,000, and if the driver had a minor in the vehicle or had a 0.15 blood alcohol level or higher, a minimum fine of $4,000. A fourth conviction also carries jail time of up to five years.
Impoundment or Immobilization
In addition to fines and jail time, the state can also impound or immobilize the drunk driver’s vehicle for 10 days upon the first conviction, 30 days upon a second conviction if it is within 5 years of a prior conviction, and 90 days if a third conviction is within 10 years of a prior conviction. Impoundment or immobilization cannot be concurrent with jail time.
These are not the only punishments a drunk driver could face. Florida laws provide for additional penalties under certain circumstances.
Frequently Asked Questions About Fort Lauderdale Drunk Driving Accidents
Victims and their families often have questions about drunk driving accidents in Fort Lauderdale. Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions (FAQs).
What should I do after an accident with a Fort Lauderdale drunk driver?
People involved in a vehicle accident with a drunk (or any) driver should safeguard their health and safety as the first priority. To that end, move out of the accident zone as quickly as possible, if you are able. Do not leave the scene, as doing so is a violation of the law, unless EMTs take you to the emergency room.
Never confront a DUI driver or accuse the driver of causing an accident. Drunk people may pose a danger as their judgment is impaired or because they feel threatened or fearful. Stay in a safe place until law enforcement arrives.
Call 911 as soon as possible, if you are able. When law enforcement arrives, answer their questions and follow their instructions.
The officer will develop a crash report after talking to all drivers, surveying the scene, and asking questions. The crash report is an important piece of evidence about how the accident occurred, so obtain a copy and keep it for your records.
Exchange contact information with the other driver(s), including insurance information, names, and email.
If you have a smartphone, take pictures of the accident scene, including the damage to the vehicles and anything that could constitute evidence, such as skid marks or broken barriers.
Talk to eyewitnesses and get their contact information if they are willing.
After law enforcement indicates you can leave, see a doctor as quickly as possible. You need a doctor’s examination to find out if you sustained any non-obvious injuries, and to treat any injuries.
Follow all medical recommendations for treatment and conduct.
Keep all records of medical visits, treatment, and diagnoses.
Contact your insurance company as soon as possible.
Can I sue the Fort Lauderdale drunk driver?
Victims of certain serious injuries can bring a Fort Lauderdale drunk driving accident lawsuit against a drunk driver who causes an accident under the law.
But, individuals cannot sue a drunk driver simply for driving drunk. Why? Because the state is responsible for charging drunk drivers with a DUI. Law enforcement can either chemically test a driver or administer field sobriety tests if they suspect inebriated driving.
The state prosecutes drunk driving charges in criminal court. Individual victims pursue their claim in civil court, a separate court system.
If you notice symptoms of drunk driving after or before the accident, mention it to law enforcement at the scene.
How much is my Fort Lauderdale drunk driving accident claim worth?
This is a common question. The value of monetary damage claims against drunk drivers depends on the nature and extent of your injuries and the damages they have caused in your life. In other words, drunk driving in and of itself does not make a claim worth a certain amount; your injuries, your time off work, and the pain and suffering you experience all make the claim amount what it is.
Tabulating the charges will determine economic damages such as medical expenses. Economic damages like income lost from work are determined by establishing the total amount of time the victim needed to take from work and multiplying it by the current pay rate.
Pain and suffering damages, however, are treated differently. There is no way to simply add up monetary damages for pain and suffering, because they are subjective. As a result, insurance companies will try to lowball you for these and other noneconomic damages. You need to call us for a fair evaluation of what you’re going through. We won’t let the insurance company cheat you out of the damages it owes you.
What if my loved one died in a Fort Lauderdale drunk driving accident?
All too tragically, drunk driving accidents can end in death. While grief and distress may overwhelm family members, the law provides for damage compensation to family members if the deceased person could have pursued a Fort Lauderdale drunk driving accident claim if they had lived.
This is known as a wrongful death claim, for which survivors can seek damages.
- Medical or funeral expenses any surviving family member paid (or that were paid by the estate, if the suit is brought by the estate).
- Value of support and services the deceased provided.
- Loss of companionship, guidance, and protection the deceased provided.
- Mental and emotional pain and suffering stemming from the loss of a child.
Under the law, the deceased person’s spouse, children, and parents, and any blood relative or adoptive sibling who is either partially or entirely dependent on the deceased are eligible to bring a wrongful death suit against the negligent party.
Under some circumstances, the estate may bring a suit as well.
How can your Fort Lauderdale drunk driving accident lawyers help me?
If you want to discuss a Fort Lauderdale drunk driving accident suit, you should contact a lawyer to advise you, bring the suit, and argue on your behalf.
Lawyers can help victims of a drunk driving accident in many instances. They work with investigative teams that can establish who or what caused the accident, and thus who or what bears responsibility.
Lawyers can negotiate with insurance companies that refuse a fair (or any) settlement.
Lawyers can help to establish what your damages have cost you by using evidence. They can compile evidence as proof of your injuries and thus proof of damage.
Call Our Fort Lauderdale Drunk Driving Accident Attorneys Today
The Levin Firm works to help victims in the aftermath of drunk driving accidents. Our initial consultation is completely free. Contact us or call us at (954) 715-3260 right now for more information about your legal options.