Drunk Driving Accident Damages
If you are injured in an accident caused by a drunk driver, you may be able to sue the driver in civil court for damages. This article outlines some of the basics of civil recovery after a drunk driving accident.
Florida is a no-fault insurance state. What this means is that anyone who is injured or has property damage from a car accident first needs to go to their insurance, no matter who was at fault. However, if your injuries are greater than the limits on your insurance, then you can sue the drunk driver who caused the accident for the difference.
What Can I Recover For?
There are certain damages that you may be able to recover from the drunk driver at fault for the accident. These damages include money for lost wages due to injuries, medical expenses, and pain and suffering. Florida law also allows victims of drink driving accidents to sue for punitive damages. Punitive damages are comprised of money above and beyond the actual costs of the injuries. The purpose of punitive damages is to deter the behavior in the future.
Burden of Proof
Drunk driving (DUI and DWI) is a crime and the criminal charge and penalties for the crime are handled by the criminal court. Civil recovery after a drunk driving accident is a separate process handled by the civil court. The civil and criminal process is conducted completely separately, though of course the two procedures will likely have similar evidence.
One of the biggest differences between civil and criminal drunk driving is the burden of proof. Criminal charges require that the crime be proved beyond a reasonable doubt. To prevail in a civil case you only need to prove that it is more likely than not that the event in question occurred. Therefore, even someone who is found not guilty of driving drunk in a criminal court can still be held liable for damages stemming from a drunk driving accident in civil court.
Comparative fault is one of the most common defenses in a drunk driving accident case. As a comparative fault state, Florida allows this defense to reduce or eliminate liability for damages. Comparative fault arises when the defendant proves that the plaintiff also had some fault in causing the accident and therefore the plaintiff’s recovery should be reduced. For example, if the plaintiff is 10% at fault and the defendant 90% at fault, then the amount of recovery for the plaintiff will be reduced by 10%.
Dram Shop Laws
In certain circumstances the business that sold the drunk driver drinks can also be held liable for injuries. These are called “Dram Shop” laws. In Florida, an establishment that serves alcohol can be brought into the suit if they sold alcohol to a minor or sold alcohol to someone who is a known drunk. This only applies to places where alcohol is served to be drank on the spot, such as a bar.
Tampa Drunk Driving Accident Attorneys
If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident with a drunk driver, you should contact a knowledgeable drunk driving accident attorney as soon as possible. Our experienced drunk driving accident attorneys at Romero Law Firm in Tampa, Florida, can help you sue for the damages you are entitled to.