Almost 30% of all car accidents in Florida result from drunk driving. Recovery from a drunk driving car accident is quite tricky. This is because most of these accidents are fatal, and you are likely to suffer severe bodily injuries. However, it is essential to understand that the drunk driver is not automatically at fault for these accidents. You will have to prove their liability to your injuries. If you are injured in a car accident where a drunk driver is involved, we advise you to seek legal representation from the Clay County Personal Injury Attorney. Our team will help you file a compensation claim for your injuries.
Overview of Car Accidents Involving a Drunk Driver
Driving under intoxication is a leading cause of car accidents in Florida and the country at large. This is as a result of the easy availability of alcohol and other illegal drugs. If not controlled in the right state of mind, vehicles could turn out to be deadly weapons. There are different scenarios in which a car accident results from drunk driving:
- Car crash as a result of speeding
- Drunk driver hitting a pedestrian due to lack of clear vision on the road
- Distracted driver rear-ending another driver
- Total loss of control of the vehicle and hitting other vehicles on the road
Whether your injuries resulted from any of the following accidents or a different scenario where the driver was drunk, you are entitled to compensation. However, if you suffer injuries from a car accident involving a drunk driver, you have the burden of proving their negligence in your injury case. The court will then establish the percentage of fault for the drunk driver as well as other parties that may have played a role in the accident. A successful personal injury claim will see you get compensation for all the damages incurred in the car accident.
Before you proceed with your case, it is vital to have the following facts straight, so you have a better chance of having a successful personal injury claim:
If intoxication was a primary contributing factor to the accident
The information about the intoxication will be found in the car accident report put together by the law enforcement officer who arrived at the scene of the crime. If you are involved in a car accident where you believe that the other driver is drunk, you should call the police to report the crash and ask for help. You should tell them your location, the number of people who were injured in the accident as well as your suspicion that the other driver was drunk. When a law enforcement officer arrives at the accident scene:
- Tell them if you smell alcohol on the breath of the other driver. The time taken by the officers to arrive at the scene is enough for the drunk driver to use a breath spray and hide the smell. If you alert the police regarding the scent, they can do a field sobriety test to the driver to establish that fact.
- Recall if you saw anyone from the other car throw away beer cans, bottles of alcohol, or drug paraphernalia. If you see any of those acts, you should point it out to the law enforcers.
- Make sure you saw the person who was driving the car. Most drunk drivers use the tactic of switching positions with a passenger who had not been drinking. This will help ensure that the tests are done on the right person.
There are different levels of intoxication as classified by the DWI laws of Florida. However, it all comes down to the accident caused as a result of the driver’s impairment from alcohol consumption. Establishing intoxication will be an essential aspect of your injury claim and will directly impact the compensation you get for the damages. Another vital issue to note is whether the driver has a prior conviction for drunk driving. Also, if the drunk driver was convicted for Driving While Intoxicated in a criminal case, it will be easier for you to prove their liabilities to your injuries at the personal injury claim.
Showing that you did not play a role in the accident
This may seem counterintuitive since you were not the one driving under the influence of alcohol. However, you are required to show that you did not play a role in causing the accident. This is because the other driver’s drunk driving does not automatically mean they were responsible for causing the accident.
In such a case, it is crucial to have guidance from a competent personal injury attorney. Your attorney will help you position yourself out of fault in your case and also protect you from insurance adjusters who attempt to exploit you.
Proving Negligence of the Other Driver
If you have been involved in a car accident with a drunk driver and you believe they are at fault, you will want compensation for your injuries. However, to prove that they were at fault, you have to show their negligence in that they acted in disregard to the duty they have to drive safely.
Most car accident lawsuits are based on negligence since no one plans to cause an accident even when they are intoxicated. A complete analysis of the situations and the circumstances that led to the crash is done to prove negligence. The basic elements of negligence are:
- Duty of Care
This basic principle is very crucial and relates more as compared to the traffic laws. The duty of care in a traffic setup means that every licensed driver has the primary responsibility to operate a motor vehicle on the road carefully. They should also avoid any actions that will cause injury to other drivers, pedestrians as well as damage to property. Measures that ensure the safety of other people, include driving carefully, adhering to the speed limits, obeying traffic rules, and not drinking and driving.
- Breach of Duty
Breach of duty is the failure of a driver to observe the duty of care they have to ensure the safety of other road users. If the other driver acted in a way that doesn’t portray a reasonable person’s behavior, they are considered to have breached the duty of care. Your personal injury attorney will help you show the driver’s negligence, thus their liability to the injury you suffered in the accident.
Although proving the breach of duty is necessary, it must be shown that the breach of duty was a contributing factor to the accident. If the driver had acted differently, the accident could have been avoided.
Causation could either be direct or indirect. Direct causation is where the actions of a drunk driver and the breach of duty were the leading cause of the accident as well as your injuries. For example, if the other driver's intoxication made them lose focus and fail to stop at the red light and strikes your car, causing your injuries, this would be direct causation.
On the other hand, indirect causation occurs if the breach of duty was not the primary cause of the accident. However, it contributed to the accident or injury. An example of indirect causation would be a drunk driver hitting a utility pole on the way, which in return, hits your car and cause your injuries.
Alcohol is a depressant that severely slows down and hinders the driver’s central nervous system function as well as their reaction on time. The drivers must be alert all the time to react accordingly to sudden occurrences. Proving that the drunk driver was not alert could help to show how their actions caused the accident.
Gathering Evidence in a Personal Injury Case for a Car Accident Involving a Drunk Driver
Gathering evidence of drunk driving should not be that difficult with the help of a personal injury attorney. Showing that the other driver was intoxicated in itself is not enough to win the personal injury lawsuit. However, in many cases, establishing intoxication will at least suffice proof that the driver breached the duty of care. The following are some evidence of the ways you can use to prove intoxication as well as the injuries suffered during your injury claim hearing:
Request for a Police Report on your Accident.
There are two types of car accident police reports. The first one is the official report put together when the law enforcement officer investigates your accident. The other report is created by one or more parties regarding the accident. The accident reports from the police officer will include their personal opinion on the details of the crash. This will include the contributory factors as well as a drawn diagram of the accident scene and the point of impact.
When you point out your suspicion of alcohol use on the other driver to the police, they will carry out their tests. All information regarding the driver will be indicated in the police report. Alcohol, being an antidepressant, will slow down the nervous system and affect driving abilities. Presence of alcohol in the blood will manifest itself in the following ways
- Dazed Expression
- Bloodshot eyes
- Dilated Pupils
- Staggering gait
- Slurred speech
All these will be noted by the police officer on arrival to the scene and will be indicated in the police report. Also, the police report will indicate the results of the blood and breathalyzer tests carried out at the accident scene. While gathering evidence against the drunk driver, this report will be available to you.
The police report will play a key role in your car accident personal injury claim on the drunk driver. This is because they were physically present at the accident scene. You need to study the report carefully and ensure that no vital information was missed. Note that police reports can be corrected before they are presented as evidence in your civil case.
Your testimony, as well as that of other eyewitnesses describing the driver’s behavior, will be considered. After an accident where you suspect the other driver was drunk driving, it is essential to take note of the people who witnessed the crash. Witness statements can be very powerful. These statements carry a lot of weight since the third parties have no personal or financial interests in your injury claim. Take their contacts and request them to testify in your injury claim. You may even get lucky in case the driver who caused your injuries admits to driving while intoxicated.
Photos and Videos
Photographs taken immediately after an accident will increase the credibility as well as the financial value of your claim. The photos will also act as proof of the injuries you suffered in the crash. The photos help in your claim by telling the story of how the story happened, providing a clear image of the behaviors of individuals involved in the accident. Make sure you take photographs and video of the scene to show that the other driver’s actions were impaired by alcohol.
If it is possible, you should return to the accident scene; you might see other pieces of evidence such as skid marks or broken car parts. Mainly if the accident occurred at night, you could return in daylight. If you are too injured to do that, ensure that you find someone to do it for you and take pictures. This will be used to get maximum benefits in your injury claim.
A conviction for Driving While Intoxicated
When you report your suspicion of drunk driving to the law enforcers, they will carry out their tests to ensure the suspicion is correct. If the driver is intoxicated, a DWI criminal case will be filed against them. If the driver is convicted for drunk driving, your burden of proof will be easier at the personal injury claim. This is because you are not required to prove that the driver who caused the accident was intoxicated. You will only be required to prove that he or she caused the accident.
If you are injured in a car accident where a drunk driver is involved, you should immediately seek medical attention. This will ensure that any injuries you have suffered are treated and put on the records. You will use your medical reports to claim compensation for medical bills that cannot be covered by your insurance.
A complete medical report will indicate each date that you received treatment and a full description of your injuries from the accident throughout the treatment. Also, the outcome of your treatment, the need for future treatment, and the amount spent as a result of the accident are included. Your medical records will indicate the severity of your injuries and will be a significant determinant in the number of benefits you get. The medical records for a post-car accident treatment will include:
- Ambulance/paramedic records
- Emergency room as well as initial treatment records
- Hospital records of all treatment given during your stay
- Records of treated administered during follow up appointments
- Physical therapy records
- X-rays, CT Scans, and MRIs
- Any state of medical permanency such as temporary or permanent disability resulting from the accident
There are generally two types of injuries you can suffer from these types of accidents, and you can seek compensation in a personal injury claim:
- Soft Tissue Injuries
Soft tissue injuries are minor strains, whiplash, bruising as well as cuts that do not require stitching. Soft tissue injuries will rarely result in substantial medical bills. Also, they do not attract legal issues. This is because you can easily negotiate a fair settlement with the insurance company. Please note that you don’t have to be forced into accepting the first offer; you can always seek an attorney’s advice to ensure you are fairly compensated. This is because you may receive a settlement that isn’t enough to cater for all expenses, especially if the minor injuries result in secondary infections.
- Hard Injuries
Hard injuries are often more severe such as third-degree burns, severe cuts that require stitching, and other injuries that need extensive medical treatment. Compensation for these severe injuries can be substantial with competent legal representation. When it comes to these severe injuries, an experienced personal injury attorney will guide you through to ensure maximum benefits for your injuries.
What Benefits Can I Qualify for after Getting Injured In a Car Accident with a Drunk Driver?
Typically, no-fault states like Florida will require you to approach your insurance company to pay your medical bills after a car accident. However, when you suffer injuries in an accident where a drunk driver is involved, you can file claims with your insurer. Also, you will have a strong civil suit against the drunk driver’s insurance company. Sometimes the drunk driver who is at fault for the car accident may not have insurance coverage. In such a situation, the driver will be personally responsible for the damages.
In Florida, there are requirements you must meet before qualifying for the benefits, such as reporting the incident within 72 hours. Observing these requirements will ensure you don’t miss out on the entitled benefits. Common benefits you may be eligible to get are the following.
Loss of Wage
Most car accidents, especially when drunk driving is involved, are fatal. Injuries suffered may prevent you from going to work for some time, depending on the severity. A successful personal injury claim will see you get compensation for wages lost on the day of the accident as well as what you are likely to lose in the future. This is because some injuries will require you to spend time in hospital or have future frequent visits. You need to ensure your attorney carefully studies your medical records to ensure you get the right compensation for your lost wages.
Recovering from drunk driving car accidents may require significant medical bills. This may include long-term therapy, surgical intervention, as well as confinement in a medical facility. The medical expenses may be too much for your insurance company to cover. Thus, you will claim compensation from the drunk driver who caused the accident. Also, you will get compensation for the expenses you incurred as you travel to seek medical attention.
Mental Health Counseling
After a car accident, you not only suffer a physical injury; you also suffer mental and psychological trauma. It can be very hard to recover from this kind of trauma. If it is determined that you suffered psychological injury as a result of the accident, you will get compensation for mental health counseling sessions.
Most accidents involving drunk drivers are likely to be fatal, and you may suffer serious injuries. Injuries resulting in these accidents could cause disability, which includes amputation of limbs or complete mortal disability. Also, you may get disfigured or die from the accident. If you are rendered permanently disabled or disfigured by a car accident where the driver was operating under the influence of drugs, you may be eligible to receive ongoing disability benefits. If your loved one dies in a car accident, you can recover death benefits.
Loss of Consortium
When your spouse succumbs to the injuries of a car accident, you can seek compensation for the lost consortium. This is the loss of intimacy as well as the diminishing quality of marriage and life in general.
Does Drunk Driving Increase Damage Settlements?
There is always no guarantee of the amount of settlement you receive for your injuries in a drunk driving car accident. The determination of what you get will be unique for each case. However, some factors, which are often referred to as legal doctrines of punitive damages, can increase your settlements.
Find a Drunk Driver Injury Attorney Near Me
If a drunk driver causes you injuries in a car accident, you should consider consulting with an experienced and knowledgeable personal injury attorney. At Clay County Personal Injury Attorney, we are ready to help you pursue your claim. Our attorneys will guide you to prove intoxication of the other driver and guide you through the process of injury documentation and claiming compensation. Call us at 904-494-8242 today!