DUI Drunk Driving Accident Attorney in Lakeland
Approximately one-third of all traffic related fatalities are alcohol related resulting in over 10,000 deaths in the United States every year on average according to the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.
Intoxicated drivers cause a significant safety issue on our roadways. Aside from being a crime to drive a vehicle in Florida while intoxicated by alcohol, a drunk driver is also subject to punitive damages in a civil lawsuit. Section 768.736, Florida Statutes creates an exception that allows a court to award punitive damages against a driver who’s normal faculties were impaired by alcohol or who had a blood or breath alcohol level of 0.08 percent or higher.
Drunk Driving Is A Widespread Problem Everywhere And In Florida
Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) has some staggering statistics. Drunk driving is responsible for almost one-third of all traffic fatalities. On average in the United States, someone dies from a drunk driving accident every 53 minutes. Nationally, about 10,000 highway deaths per year have occurred since 1982 due to drunk driving.
In Florida alone, there are almost 1,000 drunk driving deaths per year on average. While some of the fatalities involve the person who was drinking, the person injured or killed in a drunk driving accident is often the person who was not drinking. When this happens, the person who was not drinking has a personal injury or wrongful death claim against the person who was.
In 2018, suggestions were made that scientific analysis supports lowering the legal limit to 0.05% blood alcohol content as the effects of impairment set in before reaching a BAC of the 0.08%. It is important to know that driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs in Florida only requires impairment by alcohol or drugs (see section 316.193, Fla. Stat.) and not necessarily a BAC of 0.08% or higher. Instead, section 316.1934, Fla. Stat. merely makes a legal presumption that a person is intoxicated at 0.o8% or higher (the presumption also operates to presume that a person with a BAC of 0.05% is not intoxicated).
What Damages Can I Claim If I Have Been Injured In A DUI Drunk Driving Accident?
In a claim for bodily injuries as a result of a DUI accident, an injured person may claim damages including:
- past and future medical expenses
- past and future pain and suffering
- mental anguish, incovenience, disability, disfigurement, and the loss of capacity for enjoyment of life
- loss of income and a loss of capacity to earn money in the future
- loss of consortium due to relationship damages with a spouse
- punitive damages payable from the drunk driver’s own assets
DUI Drivers Expose Themselves to Punitive Damages
In Florida, punitive damages are typically not covered by insurance and must be awarded in proportion to the defendant’s ability to pay. Sadly, there are some cases where punitive damages are simply not effective in deterring bad conduct. With those drunk drivers, the public can only rely on the criminal justice system to do its job to deter such behavior. However, there are also a lot of people who stand to lose something by driving drunk.
This is a reason why insurance companies pay particular attention to drunk driving claims. If an insurance company knows that their insured was driving drunk (because of either an admission or a BAC level of 0.08 percent or higher), then the value of the case is usually adjusted upward.
DUI Drivers Cannot Discharge Judgments Against Them In Bankruptcy
You and your attorney may choose to take a DUI driver to trial and obtain a judgment against them for the mere fact that DUI related judgments do not get discharged if the driver files bankruptcy.
11 U.S.C. Section 523 states a list of exceptions to discharge including “for death or personal injury caused by the debtor’s operation of a motor vehicle, vessel, or aircraft if such operation was unlawful because the debtor was intoxicated from using alcohol, a drug, or another substance.”
This is a big deal in DUI accident cases because one of the commonly raised defenses by insurance companies is that their insured will declare bankruptcy if there is a judgment that exceeds the policy limits. Whether you decide to pursue this remedy or not is a careful decision made by you and your attorney as to your individual goals in the litigation.
Have a Knowledgeable and Experienced DUI Drunk Driving Accident Attorney Represent You
The decision to go after someone for punitive damages under Florida law is an important one. If you or a loved one suffered an injury due to a Lakeland drunk driving accident, please contact a Lakeland car accident lawyer for a free consultation of the merits of the case. Each case is different and should be analyzed based on a variety of factors. Please contact us today to discuss your case for free.
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For recent legal topics, please see our personal injury blog. We help clients located in Lakeland and Winter Haven, Florida who have been injured in accidents with drunk drivers.