Articles Posted in Drunk Driving Accidents

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Drunk driving remains one of the leading causes of serious car accidents resulting in injury or death. Florida is a no-fault state when it comes to auto insurance, but if you meet the “serious injury threshold,” as outlined in F.S. 627.737, you can collect more than just personal injury protection (PIP) benefits by pursuing action against the at-fault driver. What many drunk driving victims don’t realize is that in addition to this, they may have the option of a third-party liability claim. drunk driving injury

While it’s true drunk drivers are generally the only ones criminally charged, civil liability is different. Third parties can be accountable in civil court for the negligence and even criminal conduct of someone else if they breach a duty of care that in turn allowed the injurious incident to occur.

In Florida drunk driving cases, such third party defendants may include: Continue reading →

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Almost any employer – including government agencies – can be held vicariously liable for the negligence of their employees when those acts or omissions in question occur in the course and scope of employment. However, in a case out of Chicago, the city has agreed to pay $20 million – $10 million each – to the families of two men killed in a fatal DUI accident involving an off-duty city police officer. DUI attorney

The Chicago Tribune reports the city council was embroiled in a fierce debate over the settlement negotiations that followed the families’ wrongful death lawsuits because of concern it would open the city up to liability for a range of wrongful acts committed by employees in their free time. Ultimately, there were two factors that swayed them:

  • The families’ allegations (and supporting evidence) that the police department protected this particular officer in previous incidents of wrongdoing, declining to arrest or punish him for alleged crimes. This, the families say, led the officer to reasonably believe he could break the law with impunity.
  • The assertion by the plaintiffs’ attorneys that if the case were to be decided by a jury, the damage award could conceivably be much higher.

Continue reading →

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Four years ago on Christmas Eve, a 50-year-old bank branch manager, husband and father of two, spent the evening wrapping and delivering gifts before heading to a co-worker’s holiday party. There, he drank some alcohol. And then a little more. And then he got behind the wheel of his car to head home. However, before he could make it to his destination, he slammed into another vehicle while traveling the wrong direction on Parks Boulevard in Largo. All three occupants of that vehicle – a couple married 63 years and their 58-year-old daughter – a wife and mother herself – were killed. drunk driving accident lawyer

Last year, just before Christmas Eve, that former bank manager with no prior criminal record was sentenced to 23 years in prison for DUI manslaughter after negotiating a plea deal. He faced up to 45 years if convicted by a jury.

Although it can be difficult to feel much sympathy for those who choose to get behind the wheel of a vehicle drunk, there is no denying that situations like this are tragic all around. We highlight this case, as reported by the Tampa Bay Times, because they underscore the fact that drunk drivers aren’t necessarily “bad” people; rather, they are individuals who made a very poor choice, often misjudging their ability to safely operate a vehicle. It’s especially important to talk about drunk driving at this time of year because there are so many holiday parties, vacations and gatherings happening – and many of those will involve alcohol. Responsibly making prior arrangements for transportation is key.  Continue reading →

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When asked who is responsible for drunk driving accidents in Florida, the most logical answer is: The drunk driver. This is true, of course, but this may not be the only individual or entity responsible. dui injury lawyer

There are several ways we might establish a third-party liable to pay for the actions of a drunk driver. These might include:

  • Vicarious liability. This is when another person/ or entity may not have been negligent, but can be held liable vicariously via the negligence of the impaired driver. One example would be if the driver was acting in the course and scope of employment at the time of the crash. The doctrine of respondeat superior allows for vicarious liability when negligent drivers are working. The second would be the vicarious liability of the vehicle owner, if it was someone other than the vehicle driver. This won’t apply to rental car companies, but it can apply in other cases.
  • UM/UIM coverage. This is insurance for which you pay that provides additional coverage when the at-fault driver either doesn’t have insurance or lacks enough insurance to fully cover the cost of your damages.
  • Dram shop liability. Florida has a limited dram shop liability statute in F.S. 768.125. It states those who sell or furnish alcoholic beverages to another won’t be liable for injury or damage caused by or resulting form intoxication of that person UNLESS the drunk driver was under 21 or known by third party defendant to be habitually addicted to any or all alcoholic beverages.

There could be other causes of action too, but it will be case specific, which is why input from an experienced drunk driving accident attorney in Orlando is imperative.  Continue reading →

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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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