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Holiday Drunk Driving Accidents Have Tragic Consequences

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. 

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. 

According to SCRAM Systems research, 16 percent of adults say they drink more than usual around the holidays, and 22 percent of those who attended a holiday work party said they felt pressured to drink. Additionally, half of all adults say alcohol plays some role in their family’s holiday gathering.

While most of the year, drunk driving is a catalyst for about 28 percent of all fatal crashes, on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, it’s involved in 41 percent of all crashes. On New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, it’s involved in 58 percent of all deadly collisions.

In Florida, F.S. 316.193 stipulates one can be convicted for drunk driving if their blood-alcohol concentration meets or exceeds 0.08 OR if they are under the influence of alcohol or other chemicals to the extent it impairs their normal faculties.

In the civil case, evidence gleaned from the criminal investigation can certainly be relevant, though the outcome of one doesn’t have a direct bearing on the other. Our Orlando drunk driving accident attorneys can explain that even when impaired drivers are ordered by the trial court in the criminal case to pay restitution, it’s often not nearly what can be obtained with a civil claim, which considers the full scope of losses and damages – including medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, mental and emotional anguish and loss of life enjoyment.

In some cases, we may also be able to pursue litigation against the bar that served the driver (though Florida’s dram shop law limits this option to cases wherein the driver was either under 21 or known to the establishment to be habitually addicted to alcohol).

We can help you explore all your legal options.

Call Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights. Now serving Orlando, West Palm Beach, Port St. Lucie and Fort Lauderdale.

Additional Resources:

Drunken driver who killed 3 in 2014 Christmas Eve crash gets 23 years, Sept. 23, 2016, By Laura C. Morel, Tampa Bay Times

More Blog Entries:

Florida Car Accident Caused by Wrong-Way Driver Proves Fatal for Three, Nov. 23, 2017, Orlando Drunk Driving Accident Lawyer Blog

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