Articles Posted in Drunk Driving Accidents

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Most are familiar with the concept of hiding assets in the midst of a divorce. We don’t often hear about hidden assets in personal injury lawsuits, but that’s because the majority of defendants aren’t independently wealthy. Mostly, claims for injury as a result of DUI or other negligence behind the wheel is covered by auto insurance companies. That’s not to say individuals can’t legally be held personally liable for damages over and above that amount, but it often makes little sense to pursue it when defendant has few assets anyway. car accident lawyer

However, debts for personal injury caused while driving under the influence is not dischargeable under U.S. Bankruptcy Code Section 523(a)(9). That means if a court has ordered defendant to pay plaintiff a sum in compensation for DUI injuries, that debt can’t simply be wiped clean by bankruptcy, as so many other debts can be. Still, collecting this compensation directly from a drunk driving defendant can be a challenge.

In a recent Palm Beach County DUI lawsuit, an 82-year-old Uber driver killed in a September crash, and defendant’s insurer now accuses defendant of hiding assets to avoid paying insurance claims benefiting the family’s estate.  Continue reading →

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Prevention of drunk driving doesn’t begin and end with the driver. More than 40 states have statutory provisions that give those injured or survivors of those killed in DUI accidents the right to pursue damage claims against licensed establishments (i.e., bars, restaurants, liquor stores) for serving alcohol to individuals who cause serious injury or death as a result of their intoxication. These are called dram shop laws.dram shop liability

However, there are varying strengths to these statutes. Florida, for instance, has a relatively weak dram shop law in F.S. 768.125. The law only allows liability claims in cases wherein the licensed establishment served to an individual was under the lawful drinking age of 21 and in cases where the establishment knowingly serves a person habitually addicted to alcohol. While it can be fairly easy to establish a case against a vendor that served alcohol to a minor, it can be tougher to prove staffers knew or should have known a person was an alcoholic and served them anyway. That doesn’t mean they aren’t worth pursuing.

Earlier this year, the parents of a former star high school football player who died at age 36 in a drunk driving accident in October filed a dram shop lawsuit against the bar their son went to often. According to the Tampa Bay Times, plaintiffs say their son was at the bar so often, employees there were aware he was an alcoholic, but served him anyway.  Continue reading →

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It’s well known that smoking or otherwise consuming marijuana before getting behind the wheel dramatically increases the likelihood of a car accident – even when the dose in question is small. However, proving marijuana impairment is much more difficult than proving intoxication by alcohol. That’s because marijuana remains in one’s system for much longer than alcohol. The effects may have long worn off, but traces of the drug remain days or even weeks after consumption. car accident lawyer

Although some states have a legal limit allowable, scientists and medical experts mostly agree these limits are arbitrary, and aren’t necessarily the most accurate markers for determining impairment. Florida does not have a per se limit for drivers when it comes to marijuana.

In car accident civil injury lawsuits, that can be a double-edged sword. If it is believed defendant driver was under the influence, plaintiff attorneys will be tasked with carefully piecing together the circumstantial evidence to show impairment was a causal factor – knowing the presence of the drug in one’s bloodstream in and of itself isn’t proof positive. On the other hand, it will be tougher for defendants to assert plaintiff impairment simply by virtue of the drug’s presence in the body. If a defendant is successful, it could significantly hurt plaintiff’s case in determining both liability and damages.  Continue reading →

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There may be a number of potential legal avenues to explore in civil court following a DUI death in Florida. These can include dram shop liability, vicarious liability (of vehicle owner or employer) as well as claims for uninsured/ underinsured motorist coverage. Premises liability, though, isn’t typically one of them. A recent case tested this theory – and won at trial – but was later reversed by the Florida 4th District Court of Appeal.car accident lawyer

Plaintiff in this case suffered a terrible tragedy while on vacation for a church retreat in South Florida with his pregnant wife. While sunbathing near the pool cabana, an intoxicated driver recklessly drove her vehicle into the wall of the cabana, collapsing the structure and killing plaintiff’s wife and unborn child, who was 7 months along.

Plaintiff alleged premises liability for negligence in failure to address a potentially dangerous condition on the property (i.e., lack of protective features around the rear of the cabana that abuts a curve around which drivers were known to speed). Jurors at trial returned a verdict finding the hotel’s negligence was a partial cause of death here. Jurors awarded $24 million in total damages, determining the hotel was 15 percent liable and owed $3.6 million to plaintiff. But the 4th DCA ruled the lower court should have granted defense motion for a directed verdict in this matter. Continue reading →

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The brother of a Central Florida man killed in a DUI accident is suing two bars and their employees for serving alcohol to a man who was known to be habitually addicted – the same man who after leaving those establishments got behind a wheel drunk and killed his brother.drunk driving

The claim is based on Florida’s dram shop law, which is codified in F.S. 768.125. Florida’s dram shop liability law is less favorable to plaintiffs than statutes in other states, but it does allow compensation under a certain set of circumstances. Although there are some states in which bars, restaurants and other places that serve alcohol can be liable just for serving to someone who appears to be intoxicated, Florida only allows liability in DUI cases where:

  • The driver was served alcohol despite being under the age of 21;
  • The driver was known to be habitually addicted to alcohol.

Both scenarios of course assume that the injury or damage was caused by or resulted from the intoxication of such a minor or person.  Continue reading →

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The family of a 58-year-old grandmother who died in a crash last month has filed a civil injury lawsuit against the 40-year-old driver, a principle at a local high school. They are seeking justice in a case where it seems apparent the at-fault driver won’t face criminal charges for allegedly driving drunk. beer

The case is an odd one that started when a 5,000-pound truck fell from the sky and on top of the victim’s sport utility vehicle. The mother of four and grandmother of two was traveling home on the highway when the Ford F-150 truck crushed her SUV. The truck was driven by a 40-year-old high school principle. He reportedly struck an impact barrier with such force that it lifted the truck off the ground and made it go airborne, according to Fox News Latino. Defendant and his passengers walked away relatively unscathed with only minor lacerations and bruising.

Police did not charge defendant with DUI. He admitted to investigating officers he’d just left a local tavern, where he’d been with friends. He declined to undergo a breathalyzer test and he refused to undergo a sobriety test. However, at least two officers on scene said he didn’t appear to be drunk. Refusal to submit to a breathalyzer is illegal in Florida due to implied consent laws, but police can’t force anyone to breathe into a machine. Per a U.S. Supreme Court decision (Missouri v. McNeely), police would have to seek a warrant to conduct a blood draw, but they would need probable cause. A prosecutor called to assess the situation found there was not enough probable cause to ask a judge to force defendant to submit a drug sample.  Continue reading →

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The Alabama Supreme Court affirmed a $15 million dram shop verdict in favor of four plaintiffs – three seriously injured and the mother of one killed – in a drunk driving accident eight years ago. budweiserbeerbottles

Decedent was a 13-year-old boy. Two older teen passengers were seriously injured, as was the teen driver.

The 19-year-old behind the wheel had purchased liquor from a local convenience store that had a reputation among youth for selling booze to underage consumers. The crash, which occurred in Tuscaloosa, occurred when driver careened off the road and struck a tree. Although the passengers were wearing their seat belts, the sheer force of impact caused them to be ejected anyway.

The case was significant for a few reasons. First, it is believed to be the largest dram shop lawsuit verdict affirmed by that state’s supreme court ever. Secondly, it affirms the fact that punitive damages – which are intended to punish a wrongdoer for egregious or especially reckless actions – can be sought even a plaintiff is comparatively at-fault (as the driver was in this case). It also allows that punitive damages to be determined on a per-plaintiff basis, rather than as a whole and then divvied up. Finally, it affirms the right of dram shop plaintiffs to pierce the corporate veil in order to hold business owners personally liable for such damages, which combined with the hefty punitive damages creates a substantial incentive to prevent such action in the future. Continue reading →

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A new report released by the Governors’ Highway Safety Association reveals that drug use by drivers is a significant and growing concern among traffic safety advocates. marijuanaroaches

This is particularly true as a growing number of states (23) have approved marijuana for medicinal use and four for recreational use, while others have significantly relaxed criminal sanctions against possession. Plus, the rates of prescription drug abuse has increased substantially, considering the number of painkillers dispensed nationally has quadrupled in just the last 16 years. Just from 2007 to 2014, the number of drivers who tested positive for marijuana or illegal drugs rose from 12.4 percent to 15.1 percent.

So while the incidence rate of drunk driving has declined significantly, the rate of drugged driving is climbing. In fact, the percentage of drivers killed in car accidents who tested positive for drugs is 40 percent. That’s about as many as tested positive for alcohol. And a recent annual roadside survey conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found 22 percent of drivers tested positive for at least one medication or drug. Continue reading →

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If a person is seriously injured or killed as a result of the negligence of another, the injured person or surviving loved ones can seek damages in civil court. There are two types of damages: Compensatory and punitive. gavel211

Compensatory damages are those meant to indemnify a person for a particular loss or injury. There is no special process for obtaining these damages, as they are intended to replace what was lost. Punitive damages, on the other hand, are supposed to punish a defendant for grossly negligent acts and to deter similar behavior in the future.

Punitive damages are not available in all cases, as F.S. 768.72 points out. Requests for punitive damages have to be approved by the trial judge, and there has to be evidence of gross negligence, such that there was a lack of disregard for human life or safety, a lack of care by defendant who was consciously indifferent to it or intentional violation of the victim’s rights. Continue reading →

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Ignition interlock technology has rapidly gained popularity within court systems nationwide as a way to hold convicted drunk drivers accountable when they are once again granted driving privileges.beerhand1

But government researchers want to take it a step further. They are looking to implement alcohol detection systems that would be available in vehicles for an added upfront fee. While it wouldn’t be mandatory (yet) and drivers would have to pay extra, researchers say many drivers would welcome the opportunity to purchase technology that could save them a lot of heartache – and money.

The two systems being developed by the government-funded Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety (DADDS) focuses on detection of a driver’s blood-alcohol concentration through either breath or touch.

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