Kelley Uustal Trial Attorney
September 18, 2017

Drunk Driving Accidents

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, drugs and alcohol are factors behind nearly one-third of all traffic-related fatalities in the United States, and are responsible for tens of thousands of preventable injuries. If you have been injured in a car accident or have suffered the untimely loss of a loved one due to the recklessness of an intoxicated driver, you should get in touch with a Fort Lauderdale DUI accident attorney to talk about your legal options. Our firm stands ready to help you hold the at-fault driver accountable for his or her negligence. If you were hit by a truck driver who you believe might have been under the influence of alcohol or drugs, contact our truck accident lawyer in Fort Lauderdale.

You may be able to seek compensation for the following damages:

  • Past and future medical expenses
  • Rehabilitation costs
  • Lost wages
  • Pain and suffering
  • Property damage

If you have lost a family member in a fatal accident, you may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit seeking compensation for:

  • Pain and suffering of the deceased prior to death
  • Medical care prior to death
  • Loss of companionship
  • Loss of financial support
  • Funeral and burial expenses

Pursuing Damages After a Drunk Driving Accident

Drunk drivers who cause accidents resulting in injury or death may face both civil and criminal liability. If you have been injured, you may be able to pursue damages from the drunk driver by filing a personal injury lawsuit. The driver does not have to be convicted of drunk driving in order for you to take legal action; you may file a lawsuit while his or her criminal case is still pending. However, keep in mind that since Florida is a “no-fault” state, a lawsuit is only an option if your injuries meet the state’s definition of “serious injuries.” In other words, you can only step outside of the no-fault system if your injuries exceed a certain threshold. The following injuries meet this threshold:

  • Significant and permanent loss of an important bodily function
  • Significant and permanent scarring or disfigurement
  • Permanent injury within a reasonable degree of medical probability
  • Death

For injuries that do not meet this threshold, you will need to file a claim through your own personal injury protection (PIP) coverage to get your medical bills paid. Because every case is different, speak with a Fort Lauderdale car accident lawyer at our firm about your options. No matter which avenue is pursued, you can trust in our team to fight for the highest amount of compensation you are eligible to collect under the law.

Elements of a DUI Accident Lawsuit

If damages pass the threshold for serious injury under Florida law, then victims may be eligible for compensation. However, there’s more to a DUI accident lawsuit than sustaining enough injuries. You will also have to prove the other party was liable for your injuries. Like other types of personal injury cases, proving liability involves four major elements. If you’ve suffered an injury after a DUI accident, here’s what you need to know about recovering damages.

First, you will need to establish that the other party had a duty of care towards you. In car accident cases, all drivers have a duty of care to operate vehicles responsibly and within the realm of the law.

From there, it’s necessary to establish that the other party breached that duty of care. Driving while under the influence is a breach of duty for motorists since drinking while intoxicated puts other people at risk.

To establish that the other motorist was under the influence during the accident, you can present several types of evidence to the court:

  • Police reports. A police report will likely have information about how the involved motorists behaved after a crash. This can also include information on any field sobriety tests conducted, potential signs of impairment, if a motorist refused to consent to chemical testing or admitted to being drunk, and if there were any alcohol containers present at the scene.
  • Witness statements. If any witnesses were present at the accident scene, passengers were also in the crash, or anyone who may have seen a driver engaging in substance use before the accident, their testimony can all serve as evidence. Expert opinions can also play a role, as well.
  • Breathalyzer or blood test results. If law enforcement has reasonable suspicion that a driver was under the influence while driving, then an officer may test for blood alcohol content. The results of these tests can establish if a motorist was drunk at the time of the accident.

Driving under the influence during an accident can lead to criminal DUI charges. While the criminal trial will proceed separately from your civil accident claim, you can still refer to evidence and verdicts in the criminal case to support your own.

Proving the Intoxication of the Other Driver Caused Injury

After you’ve successfully established a breach of duty of care, you next need to prove that the breach was the cause of your accident. For example, an intoxicated driver who did not observe the proper right of way at an intersection and thus collided with you would count as causation.

Finally, not only does the breach of duty of care need to directly lead to your accident, but the accident itself also needs to be the cause of your damages. Even if someone was driving drunk and caused an accident, you can only receive compensation if that accident caused you physical harm or property damage. Any injuries sustained outside of the collision are not eligible for compensation, even if they meet the Florida threshold for serious injuries.

The extent of your injuries will then determine the amount of compensation you can fully recover. Because of Florida’s serious injury threshold, your case will potentially have a higher value to fully cover medical expenses and other applicable damages.

Correctly determining and establishing liability is an essential step to recovering compensation after your Florida DUI car accident. Many factors play a role in proving fault, such as driver conduct and intoxication level.

If you are partially at fault for your accident, then you may receive reduced compensation. Outside of its no-fault laws, Florida follows a pure comparative fault rule in determining compensation. A court will only reward you compensation for the accident in relation to how much you contributed to the incident. For example, if your total damages award was $50,000, but the court determines that you were 30 percent at fault for your accident, you would receive only 70 percent of the original damages award, or $35,000.

Since there can be no car accident claim without first establishing the other driver as at fault for your accident, you need an experienced car accident attorney for your case. At Kelley Uustal, we use the full extent of our experience and resources to help you navigate this critical part of your DUI accident claim.

Call Our Experienced Florida DUI Accident Attorney

Our dependable and experienced attorneys will fight to protect the rights of injured people. The lawyers at Kelley/Uustal have earned respect and confidence among our community, clients and colleagues alike. Our firm has successfully obtained hundreds of millions of dollars for our clients and is known for providing compassionate and zealous representation. If a drunk driving accident has changed your life, call our aggressive Fort Lauderdale personal injury attorneys for legal guidance and free case evaluation. We proudly serve clients in Fort Lauderdale and throughout South Florida.

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