You are driving home from work, and a drunk driver slams their car into yours. In an instant, your life changed. You may get compensation for your injuries from the drunk driver.
Proving the Driver of the Vehicle that Hit Your Vehicle Was Drunk
As with other accidents, you must prove the drunk driver was negligent to recover for your damages in a personal injury case. If you can show the other driver had been drinking, proving negligence is easier.
Testing the Driver’s Alcoholic Content Following an Accident
Just by driving on the roads in Florida, a driver consents to a test to determine the alcoholic content of their blood or breath if arrested for any offense committed while driving. A police officer who has reasonable cause to believe the driver is under the influence of alcohol administers a breath alcohol test at the scene. If the driver refuses the test, the law may suspend their license for 18 months.
Even if the driver is not arrested, Florida law requires a blood test to be performed if the officer has probable cause to believe the driver who is under the influence of alcohol caused death or serious injury to another.
What constitutes probable cause to believe the driver is under the influence of alcohol?
- The officer may smell alcohol on the driver.
- The officer may see beer cans or a whiskey bottle in the car.
- The driver may exhibit signs of intoxication—bloodshot eyes, difficulty walking, or slurred speech.
The officer may perform field sobriety tests to check for signs of intoxication.
The physician, paramedic, nurse, or other authorized medical personnel will draw the blood. The blood goes to a lab for testing.
What the Law Presumes from the Results of the Breath or Blood Alcohol Test
The results of the breath or blood alcohol test can be admitted as evidence at the trial of your personal injury lawsuit against the driver. Florida law presumes a person is or is not under the influence based on the test results:
- If the alcohol level is 0.05 or less, the driver is not under the influence of alcohol.
- If the alcohol level is more than 0.05 but less than 0.08, there is no presumption that the driver was or was not under the influence of alcohol.
- If the alcohol level is 0.08 or more, the driver is under the influence of alcohol.
The driver’s lawyer may contest the results. For example, he or she may question how close in time to the accident the police officers gave the test or whether the officers properly administered the test.
The Drunk Driver’s Actions Must Have Caused the Accident
As with any other accident, you must show the other driver’s negligence caused the accident. You still must prove that the drunk driver veered into your lane or did something to cause the accident.
The other driver may say you caused the accident. Even if you were partially at fault, you can still recover compensation under Florida law, but the amount you recover decreases by the percentage of fault attributed to you. For example, if you are 10 percent at fault, you will only be able to recover for 90 percent of your damages.
Suit Against the Person Who Sold or Furnished the Alcohol to the Drunk Driver
In some states, a person injured by a drunk driver can sue the person or business who sold or furnished alcohol to the drunk driver. This is not the rule in Florida, but there are two exceptions:
- A person sells or furnishes alcohol to one who is not of lawful drinking age. For example, a parent who hosts a party and serves alcohol to a minor may be liable if that minor causes an accident that injures you.
- A person knowingly serves alcohol to someone with an addiction to alcohol. In this case, the person serving the alcohol must know of the person’s addiction.
When to File a Suit If You Have Been Involved in an Accident with a Drunk Driver
Under Florida law, you have four years to file a lawsuit to recover compensation for your injuries. You have two years to bring a wrongful death action. You should not wait until the time to file suit is about to expire. Preserving evidence is easier immediately following the accident.
Recovering Damages in a Drunk Driving Accident
If you prove the negligence of a drunk driver caused an accident, you may recover compensation from the drunk driver. You may recover economic damages, including:
- Medical expenses, including future medical expenses and the costs of rehabilitation
- Lost wages if you were unable to work because of the accident
- Loss of future earnings (what you would have earned had no injury occurred)
You can also recover non-economic damages, such as for your pain and suffering.
If your spouse, child, or other relative dies in an accident caused by a drunk driver, you may recover the wages and earnings the deceased could reasonably have expected to earn during their lifetime. You may also recover:
- Medical expenses
- Funeral expenses
- Money to compensate you for the loss of companionship with the deceased
Attorneys at the Law Offices of Anidjar & Levine have experience gathering the essential documents, hiring the necessary experts, and presenting persuasive evidence to get you compensation for your injuries or for the loss of a relative.
If injured in an accident, call the Law Offices of Anidjar & Levine at 1-800-747-3733 for a free evaluation with a drunk driving accident lawyer in West Palm Beach, FL.