Victims of drunk driversDrunk driving is a problem nationwide, and it’s no exception in Florida. In 2019, 44,890 DUI violations were issued in the state of Florida, including 599 violations in Okaloosa County and 511 violations in Santa Rosa County.

Not all DUI violations result in an accident. However, when a drunk driver causes an accident, the injuries are often severe, and the lawsuits are different than other types of car accident cases.

DUI Criminal and Civil Cases

Most car accident personal injury cases are civil cases. If you pursue damages after a drunk driving crash, you file a civil suit against the at-fault driver.

However, unlike most car accident cases, criminal charges also may be brought against the driver who caused your accident. Drunk driving is illegal in Florida, and the state may bring criminal charges against the alleged drunk driver. A criminal case may result in a fine, jail time, and other consequences for the drunk driver, but that case will not result in any compensation for you.

A criminal case and a civil case may occur simultaneously. But you do not need to wait for the criminal case to end before bringing your lawsuit.

While some of the same evidence may be used in both cases, the cases may result in different outcomes. Even if the criminal case does not result in a conviction, you may recover compensation in a civil case.

DUI Injury Damages

After a crash caused by a drunk driver, you may recover compensatory damages, just as you would after any car accident. Compensatory damages can include past and future medical expenses, lost income, out-of-pocket costs, and pain and suffering. While your right to recover compensatory damages is the same as it is after any accident, your actual recovery may be greater because your injuries may be more severe.

If you suffer injuries caused by a drunk driver, punitive damages may also be awarded in your case. Punitive damages, or damages that are designed to punish the defendant, are not possible after most car crashes. However, Florida law does allow punitive damages after some drunk driving accidents.

The court must grant you permission to seek punitive damages. Generally, you may seek punitive damages if you can prove that the drunk driver knew that driving under the influence was dangerous and could cause an injury or if you can prove that the drunk driver’s behavior was extraordinarily reckless and showed indifference to the life and safety of others.

While punitive damages are meant to punish the defendant, you may receive significant financial compensation if your punitive damage claim is successful.

Drunk Drivers and Dram Shop Liability

The person who got behind the wheel, drove drunk, and caused your accident injuries may not be the only one legally responsible for your injuries. Your car accident lawyer may also explore dram shop liability—which can hold a commercial seller of the alcohol the at-fault driver consumed responsible for the crash.

Generally, a person who sells or otherwise provides alcohol to another person is not responsible for injuries caused by the person who consumed the alcohol. However, Florida law provides two important exceptions to this general rule. A person who sells or provides alcoholic beverages to someone else may be legally responsible for any injuries that result from an accident if:

  • The person willfully and illegally sold or gave alcoholic beverages to someone under the age of 21
  • The person knowingly served a person “habitually addicted” to alcoholic beverages

If a minor or person addicted to alcohol caused your drunk driving accident, your lawyer will carefully consider whether the person who provided alcohol to the driver should be held liable in your case.

Let the Browning Law Firm Protect Your Recovery

Drunk driving is against the law, and many government and private awareness campaigns regularly remind people of the danger of drinking and driving. Yet, each year tens of thousands of people drive drunk in Florida and cause deadly accidents.

If you’ve been hurt or if your loved one has died in a drunk driving crash, you deserve a full and fair recovery. Former Florida State Trooper and experienced car accident lawyer Coy H. Browning will investigate every aspect of your accident, build a strong case, and fight hard for your fair compensation. Let us help you protect your legal rights while you focus on your physical and emotional recovery. Call us, or complete our online contact form, today to schedule your free consultation.