Driving while under the influence of alcohol is illegal and can cause serious harm not only to the drunk driver, but to other drivers, passengers, and pedestrians. While many Floridians believe they are perfectly fine to drive after having one or two alcoholic drinks, the reality is that alcohol impairs judgment and makes it more likely they will cause a drunk driving accident.
If you were injured in a drunk driving accident, the knowledgeable personal injury attorneys at Staples, Ellis + Associates, P.A. can assist you in recovering damages. Experienced in representing the interests of injured parties, our auto accident attorneys know what to expect from defendants and insurance companies and can help you in your time of need.
What Is Drunk Driving?
In the state of Florida, it is illegal to operate a motor vehicle while under the influence. State law provides that a person is presumptively under the influence if his or her blood alcohol level is .08 percent or greater. Driving under the influence results in criminal charges with potential punishments including fines, jail times, revocation of driving privileges, and mandatory alcohol treatment.
If the Drunk Driver Is Criminally Charged Can I Still Recover Damages?
If the person who caused a motor vehicle accident has been criminally charged with drunk driving you can still seek damages against him or her in a civil lawsuit. Generally, if the person was charged and convicted of driving under the influence, it is easier to establish that person’s civil liability under the doctrine of negligence per se.
If you file a lawsuit against someone for causing a car accident, unless you can prove the person intended to cause the accident, the suit is generally brought under the legal theory of negligence
What is Negligence?
Legal negligence involves a situation in which one party’s failure to act reasonably under the circumstances causes harm or injury to another person. When driving, every driver must comply with Florida’s traffic laws and according to his/her responsibility to keep other drivers safe.
To recover for injuries sustained from another driver’s negligence, you must show:
(1) that the other driver owed you a duty to act reasonably safely toward you;
(2) that the driver failed to live up to that duty;
(3) that the driver’s failure actually caused your injury; and
(4) that you suffered damages as a result.
In situations where the act committed was illegal, such as driving under the influence, the doctrine of negligence per se eliminates the need to show the drunk driver committed negligence. The violation of the law allows the court to presume the driver was negligent.
How to Prove Negligence Per Se?
In a drunk driving case, proving negligence per se requires showing:
- The drunk driver violated a statute or ordinance aimed at public safety;
- The victim is a member of the class in which the statute intended to protect;
- The victim suffered the type of injury the statute was intended to protect; and
- The victim’s injury was proximately caused by the defendant’s violation.
When a drunk driver is convicted under Florida’s criminal drunk driving statute, the conviction allows any plaintiff to bring a civil negligence lawsuit to plead negligence per se. In such a case, the conviction establishes that the drunk driver violated Florida’s drunk driving statute. The plaintiff only needs to show that he or she is a member of the class intended to be protected by the drunk driving statute — in this case, the public; that the statute intended to protect the public from drunk drivers; and the drunk driver caused the plaintiff’s injuries.
Because Florida law recognizes the legal doctrine of negligence per se, the burden of bringing a civil negligence lawsuit against a drunk driver is significantly lowered.
Who Pays in a Drunk Driving Accident?
Automobile insurance generally covers car accidents when a driver behaved negligently. However, in cases where a driver was under the influence of alcohol, most auto insurers refuse to cover a claim against a driver who was under the influence. This means if you are successful in obtaining a civil judgment against a drunk driver, the driver will most likely be the person who must pay. If the drunk driver has any assets (houses, vehicles, cash) you can force the driver to sell those assets to satisfy your judgment.
What About Legal Fees?
Many negligence lawsuits are brought on a contingency fee basis. This means the attorney brings a lawsuit on your behalf, paying most of the upfront costs. When the attorney settles or wins your case, the attorney’s costs and legal fees are paid as a percentage of the damages you receive. In other words, the attorney’s legal fees are contingent on successfully settling or winning a lawsuit.
In many cases, you can seek damages against a drunk driver without paying any costs upfront. If you decide to pursue a lawsuit, the attorneys at Staples, Ellis + Associates, P.A. will discuss their legal fees with you before taking the case and work out an arrangement for payment of fees when you recover damages.
Contact the Personal Injury Attorneys at Staples, Ellis + Associates, P.A. Today to Learn About Claims Against Drunk Drivers
If you are involved in a car accident with a drunk driver you have legal rights to recover for damages resulting from the accident. Florida law allows you to seek compensation against drunk drivers for your injuries, be they car repairs, medical bills, or lost wages. At Staples, Ellis + Associates, P.A., our attorneys are experienced in bringing personal injury lawsuits against drunk drivers and can assist you in recovering for your damages. Contact Staples, Ellis + Associates, P.A. to discuss your case with one of our trial-tested attorneys.