Drunk Driving Car Accidents

If you have been injured or lost a loved one in a drunk driving accident in South Florida, the Fort Lauderdale car accident attorneys at The Ansara Law Firm, are here to help. These are among the most devastating traffic collisions with which a victim can deal, and securing experienced legal help is often essential.

We know that in the worst of these cases, nothing will completely restore someone from a catastrophic injury or bring back a loved one. But we are committed to holding negligent parties accountable. That might include not just the drunk driver, but the person who handed him the keys, his or her employer or the establishment that served him alcohol.

There are a myriad of legal strategies through which we can help those who have suffered to recover compensation for medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering and other losses. Our Fort Lauderdale lawyers are experienced in handling impaired driving accident claims.

Injuries suffered in drunk driving accidents have proven to be more severe than those in which drivers are sober because impaired drivers tend to take less evasive action. That means there is an increased chance of a head-on or full-impact collision.

Some examples of injuries sustained in drunk driving accidents are:

  • Spinal cord injury
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Broken bones
  • Whiplash
  • Paralysis
  • Death

Our car accident attorneys in Fort Lauderdale will seek to recover compensation from both your insurance company and the insurance companies representing other negligent parties. If any or all refuse to compensate you approrpiately, we may begin the litigation process. In the course of this action, we will gather relevant information, which may include:

  • Witness statements
  • Breathalyzer results
  • Blood or urine test results
  • Your own medical records
  • Photographs of the scene
  • Police reports
  • Police dash camera video of the scene
  • Surveillance camera footage
  • Names of medications the other driver may have been on
  • Your own account of the crash

The ultimate goal is to establish defendant was negligent and the breach of his or her duty of care proximately resulted in your injuries.

Scope of the Impaired Driving Problem

Drivers are considered to be legally impaired by alcohol when their blood-alcohol levels are 0.08 percent or higher.

There is no similar uniform system for testing impairment by marijuana or prescription medications, which is also a growing problem. Those cases will rely more heavily on circumstantial evidence.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported in 2013, a person was killed every 52 minutes in the U.S. as the result of a drunk driving accident. That amounted to a total of 10,076 fatalities in crashes where at least one driver had a blood-alcohol content of 0.08 or higher – accounting for nearly a third of all traffic deaths nationally.

While car accidents in general are a leading cause of child deaths, drunk driving accidents accounted for nearly 20 percent of all traffic fatalities among children 14 and younger. These include children who were walking or on bicycles when they were struck and killed by a drunk driver.

In terms of estimated economic costs, that breaks down to about $50 billion a year. This factored in losses attributed to:

  • Lost productivity
  • Workplace losses
  • Medical costs
  • Legal and court expenses
  • Emergency medical services
  • Insurance administration
  • Traffic congestion
  • Property damage

This figure still fails to capture the intangible losses to quality of life that inevitably stems from these crashes. While great strides have been made in recent years to drive down the drunk driving rate, it’s still a major problem on Florida roads.

State legislators in 2014 tightened DUI penalties for first-time offenders arrested with a blood-alcohol content of 0.15 or greater. For them, ignition interlock devices are mandatory. Still, safety advocates say this law should be even further expanded to require it for all first-time offenders.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving reports there were 41,000 DUI arrests in Florida in 2014 and 26,300 convictions. The agency notes the average first-time offender has driven impaired at least 80 times prior to his or her first arrest for the crime, meaning these figures are just a small snapshot of the problem.

Florida Dram Shop Laws, Vicarious Liability

In most drunk driving cases, the first person our Fort Lauderdale lawyers seek to hold liable is the drunk driver and his or her insurance company.

But other entities may likewise be held responsible.

In some cases, bars can be held liable for a drunk driver’s actions under what’s known as Florida’s Dram Shop Act.

F.S. 768.125 states a person who sells or furnishes alcohol to another won’t be held responsible for injury or damage caused by the intoxicated person UNLESS:

  • The person who was served is not of lawful drinking age (under 21-years-old)
  • The establishment knowingly serves a person who is habitually addicted to alcohol

Cases of minors being served alcohol are pretty straightforward, though cases falling into the second category may require more complex litigation. Such a case requires an experienced legal team.

Another possibility for liability is an employer or vehicle owner. These cases would be predicated on the idea of vicarious liability. That is, while an employer or car owner didn’t necessarily do anything wrong personally, the legal doctrine of respondeat superior allows automobile owners and employers to be held liable for the negligent acts or omissions or employers or by a person to whom a vehicle is loaned.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a Fort Lauderdale car accident, contact the personal injury attorneys at The Ansara Law Firm by calling (954) 761-4011 or toll-free at (888) ANSARA-8.

If you have been seriously injured or lost a loved one due to the reckless actions of a drunk driver, the Fort Lauderdale car accident lawyers at The Ansara Law Firm are here to protect your rights.

Of course, we know nothing can ever replace the life of someone close, nor will compensation necessarily restore your health. However, these cases are as much about holding negligent drivers accountable for a drunk driving accident as for recovering damages for:

  • Medical bills
  • Lost wages
  • Pain and Suffering
  • Loss of Consortium
  • Funeral Expenses
  • Wrongful Death

These are known as compensatory damages, and they are intended to help indemnify victims for certain losses.

In DUI cases, in addition to recovery of compensatory damages, victims may also have grounds to pursue punitive damages, which are intended to punish defendant and prevent similar acts in the future. When punitive damages are awarded, they are often for amounts far in excess of what one could recover through compensatory damages.

Additionally, victims may in some cases pursue damages against the owner of the vehicle, the establishment that served the driver alcohol (if that driver was underage or known to be a habitual abuser of alcohol) and possibly the driver’s employer.

Our Fort Lauderdale attorneys are experienced in knowing which avenues of recovery are available, how to properly identify all possible defendants and formulating an effective strategy to ensure our clients receive fair compensation.

The Scourge of Drunk Driving in Florida

Drunk driving is referred to by the advocates at Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) as the most commonly-committed “violent crime” in the U.S.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports in 2013, there were nearly 10,100 deaths in crashes where a driver had a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.08 or higher. That accounted for nearly one-third of all traffic deaths for that year, and that percentage has remained largely unchanged for a number of years.

In examining the problem of drunk driving accidents at a glance:

  • A person dies every 52 minutes in the U.S. as a result of an alcohol-impaired driver.
  • U.S. taxpayers lose nearly $50 billion annually in economic costs for drunk driving crashes. This includes losses for property damage, medical costs, administration of insurance, legal and court expenses, workplace losses, traffic congestion, emergency medical services and lost productivity.
  • Of those 10,100 deadly DUI accidents in 2013, a stunning 70 percent occurred with one driver having a BAC of at least 0.15 or higher.
  • Drivers 21 to 24 had the highest percentage of impairment rates in fatal crashes, followed by those ages 25 to 34.

The good news is alcohol-related deaths have fallen by about 23 percent in the last decade.

In Florida, approximately 30 percent of traffic fatalities in 2013 were attributed to at least one driver who had been drinking. Twenty-eight percent of those had a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.08 or higher, while 20 percent had a BAC of 0.15 or higher.

Florida DUI Laws

In recent years, Florida lawmakers have taken a number of steps to toughen laws against impaired drivers and reduce drunk driving accidents.

For example, in 2014, the state expanded its interlock ignition law to allow judges to order the devices for first-time offenders whose BAC was between 0.08 and 0.14 in lieu of a 10-day impoundment of his or her vehicle.

MADD argues ignition interlock devices, which are individual breath machines that prevent a vehicle from starting if the operator’s BAC exceeds a certain threshold, should be mandatory for all DUI offenders. As of right now, judges can order the installation of devices for first-time offenders, but it isn’t mandatory until a second or subsequent offense.

There were nearly 41,000 DUI arrests in Florida in 2014, and of those, 113,000 were third-time offenders.

F.S. 316.193 spells out the state’s drunk driving laws and the criminal penalties for violating them. In cases where there is a serious injury or death resulting from an accident, a criminal judge may order a defendant to pay restitution. However, this is not the primary goal of the criminal justice system, and it may be nowhere near what is necessary for victims to recover their losses. That’s why timely filing a civil lawsuit with the assistance of a Fort Lauderdale attorney is so important.

Proving Negligence in DUI Accident Cases

All drivers owe others on the road a basic duty of care to operate their vehicles safely and in a reasonable manner.

In order to prove another driver was negligent, your injury lawyer will need to show:

  • A duty of care existed. This is fairly simple, as operation of a vehicle automatically imposes a duty of care to others on the road.
  • There was a breach of duty. If one is driving under the influence, he or she is violating at least one traffic law.
  • You sustained injury.
  • Causation. The injury you suffered was caused by defendant driver’s breach of duty.

Contact Fort Lauderdale Lawyer Richard Ansara at The Ansara Law Firm, by calling (954) 761-4011 for a free consultation.

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