When drivers who have been consuming alcohol get behind the wheel, they put themselves and other drivers in danger of an accident, injury, or fatality. Severe accidents lead to severe injuries, which can result in devastating physical, emotional, and financial pain for drunk driving accident victims and their families.
When you’re injured, bills don’t stop, which can lead to stressful situations that delay your recovery. Our Fort Myers drunk driving accident lawyers have decades of experience advocating for drunk driving accident victims who deserve compensation for losses related to their accidents and injuries.
If you have suffered injuries because of a drunk driver, let Viles & Beckman help you seek justice. We’ll discuss the details of your accident and injuries to determine the best course of legal action for your circumstances.
Drunk Driving Accident Injuries
Some people in a drunk driving accident have walked away uninjured, most likely because the accident was a minor fender-bender that did not occur at high speed. In these cases, injured victims can likely recover all their losses from their mandatory Florida personal injury protection (PIP) coverage because any injuries were minor.
Others are not so fortunate. A drunk driving accident can cause life-changing or life-threatening injuries, resulting in immense amounts of physical pain and the likelihood of lifelong treatment or challenges. These debilitating injuries require the expertise of a seasoned drunk driving accident attorney. Some examples include:
Movement from impact, a head hitting the windshield, or coming into contact with something else during an accident can cause severe whiplash and/or a traumatic brain injury (TBI).
In addition to chronic pain from severe whiplash in the neck, TBI victims potentially face lifelong challenges with their cognitive, bodily, and motor functions, trouble with their senses, and behavioral changes.
A driver’s or passenger’s body can contort into various positions upon impact in a drunk driving accident. Specifics depend on the type of accident, whether the victim was wearing a seat belt, the presence of airbags, and the speed at which the accident occurred.
This bodily movement can result in major back injuries, such as fractured, herniated, or slipped discs. Victims often experience chronic pain and need to undergo one or more surgeries. Although surgery might alleviate some pain, many with back injuries suffer for life.
Spinal Cord Injuries
Damage to the spinal cord can heal, but many times, it results in permanent disability. As part of the central nervous system, which carries messages from the brain, a spinal cord injury can cause loss of bodily function, including full or partial paralysis.
The higher up the injury occurs on the spine, the more likely an injury will result in paralysis of some or all of a person’s limbs. Those who suffer permanent disability from a spinal cord injury face a lifetime of expensive medical costs for treatment, assistive devices, and nursing care.
When drunk driving accidents occur at high speeds, drivers and occupants risk their limbs—especially their legs getting crushed during impact. Similarly, pedestrians and bicyclists who are hit by a drunk driver might get pinned under the vehicle.
Severe limb crush always requires grueling rehabilitation and recovery, and oftentimes results in amputation. Drunk driving accident victims who undergo amputation have to learn how to get through life without a limb and deal with the psychological aftermath of this kind of injury.
If your injury is not listed above, it still may qualify for compensation. Our drunk driving accident lawyers in Fort Myers can review your injuries after you’ve received medical assistance and verify that your injury is eligible for compensation.
Accidents Occur More Frequently When Alcohol Is Involved
Those who drive under the influence risk causing multiple types of collisions with their vehicle. They may cause property damage, hit a pedestrian, or crash into a motorcyclist or bicyclist. When drunk drivers hit other vehicles, some types of accidents occur more frequently than others. They include:
Drunk drivers who are well above the legal limit of .08 have significant impairments to their senses. Seeing and remaining in the proper lane of a two-lane street or highway can become difficult and those under the influence are likely to swerve into the other lane, which causes a head-on crash if there is oncoming traffic.
When those under the influence are also sleep-deprived, impairment occurs sooner, causing drivers to fall asleep at the wheel and potentially cause a head-on collision.
Drivers under the influence of alcohol lose their ability to judge time and distance and have slower reaction times. When vehicles in front of them slow or stop for a traffic signal or a stop sign or to make a turn, rear-end crashes often occur. Like head-on collisions, drivers who are sleepy and drunk might also fall asleep at the wheel and strike the vehicle in front of them.
Drivers who are impaired by alcohol can find it challenging to see and respond to traffic signs. This can result in drivers traveling the wrong way down a one-way street, a divided highway, or entering the wrong ramp to get on or off an interstate.
Wrong-way collisions are often head-on collisions. But depending on the situation, other types of crashes might occur. If oncoming traffic attempts to swerve out of the drunk driver’s way, a sideswipe or angle collision might occur, too.
This is not an exhaustive list of the types of accidents that can occur when drivers are drunk behind the wheel. Drunk driving is unpredictable and can result in any type of accident, but our Fort Myers drunk driving accident attorneys are here to help.
How Much Time Do I Have to File a Drunk Driving Accident Claim?
Florida’s statute of limitations, Fla. Stat. § 95.11, states that you have four years from the date of the drunk driving accident to file a claim. We recommend that you file as soon as possible so that you can have a greater chance of getting the maximum amount of damages. If you file past the four years deadline, you may not receive a high settlement or any settlement at all.
While Florida gives you four years to file, the time you have to file a claim may be longer or shorter depending on your case. A personal injury lawyer can tell you the exact amount of time you have based on your situation.
In the unfortunate event that you lose a loved one to a drunk driving accident, you will have two years from their date of death to file a wrongful death claim. Our lawyers can help you navigate the process during this difficult time.
Florida PIP Insurance and Drunk Driving Accidents
Florida is a no-fault insurance state which requires those who register a vehicle to carry a minimum of $10,000 property damage liability (PDL) and a minimum of $10,000 in personal injury protection (PIP) coverage. This means when you get into an accident with a drunk driver, your first course of action is to file a claim with your PIP insurance carrier.
Florida PIP insurance covers 80% of medical treatment and 60% of lost wages due to an accident. When severe accidents occur, injured victims can easily meet or exceed these limits, making it necessary to seek further compensation with the help of a drunk driving accident attorney in Fort Myers.
Florida Dram Shop Laws
When a drunk driver is involved in an accident, it often makes determining liability easier for insurance companies, investigators, and the courts. Yet, in some cases, a third party might share liability with a driver.
Fla. Stat. § 768.125 allows those injured by a drunk driver to sue bars, restaurants, and other businesses for damages if they knowingly serve “a person habitually addicted to the use of any or all alcoholic beverages.” Florida courts can also hold establishments liable for a drunk driving accident caused by a minor if they knowingly served someone under age 21.
Comparative Negligence and Drunk Driving Accidents in Florida
Florida is a pure comparative negligence state, which means in personal injury cases, courts assess the extent to which the plaintiff might have contributed to the accident. If you sue a drunk driver for damages, and the court rules in your favor, it will assign a percentage portion of fault to each party named in the lawsuit.
If the court finds you were negligent, too, it will deduct that percentage portion from any damages they award you. For example, if you sue for $200,000, and a Florida court finds you were 25% at fault for the accident, you can only collect 75% of the damages, or $150,000 in this case.
Comparative negligence provides a way for the defense to reduce their financial liability for a drunk driving accident by shifting blame to the plaintiff. Some common defense strategies include arguing that:
- The plaintiff caused the accident; it had nothing to do with the other driver being under the influence
- The plaintiff was also driving under the influence of alcohol
- The plaintiff was speeding or committing some other traffic infraction when the accident occurred
- The plaintiff was driving while distracted by a cell phone or other common distraction
We know the tactics the defense may try to use in a drunk driving accident case. A competent Fort Myers drunk driving accident attorney will protect you and advocate for you to get the best outcome for your situation.
Compensation for Injuries From Drunk Driving Accidents
When you choose to seek compensation for damages related to a drunk driving accident, a Florida court might award you punitive and compensatory damages. Punitive damages are meant to punish the defendant in cases of extreme negligence or intentional harm.
Although you might receive punitive damages from a drunk driving accident, any compensation you receive will likely be compensatory damages intended to compensate you for economic and non-economic losses related to the accident.
Some of the most commonly awarded compensatory damages include:
- Medical expenses such as ambulance and emergency services, hospital stays, surgery, diagnostic imaging, follow-up visits, and prescription medication
- Future medical expenses resulting from a catastrophic injury that requires extensive recovery or a permanent disability requiring lifelong treatment and care
- Rehabilitation costs for a specialist to help an injured person regain functions—for example, a physical therapist or occupational therapist
- Cost of assistive devices, such as wheelchairs, canes, walkers, crutches, and artificial limbs
- Lost wages due to missing work from injuries, hospitalization, and recovery
- Lost future wages and benefits when a severe injury prevents an injured person from returning to their job
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of consortium with a spouse
- Scarring and disfigurement
If you lost a child or other loved one in a drunk driving accident, you might be eligible for compensation depending on your relationship with the deceased. You can recover some of the previously listed damages and might also recover funeral and burial expenses. Your drunk driving accident attorney will advise you on what applies to your particular situation.
Insurance Companies’ Tactics After a Drunk Driving Accident
Insurance companies are quick to approach you when you get into a drunk driving accident. Insurance adjusters prioritize speed over efficiency, so they will try to offer you a low settlement as fast as you can instead of giving you the one you deserve. Drunk driving accidents lawyers in Fort Myers know the tricks that the other driver’s insurance company will try to use.
You should not enter into any conversation or negotiation without a drunk driving accident lawyer present. The adjusters are often very polite and sympathetic to your situation. In addition, they have a good grasp of human psychology. They know that you have just been in a horrible accident, and you are probably panicking about how to pay your bills.
So, they may offer you a $5,000 settlement that they hope you’ll accept because of your urgent need for money. However, your case may be worth well over $5,000, and our lawyers can help you get the settlement you deserve.
Prevalence of Drunk Driving in Florida
According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), drunk driving deaths have fallen by more than a third over the last 30 years. Data from Florida’s Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV) confirms this trend.
According to a crash report from FLHSMV, 2020 traffic crashes in Florida involving alcohol have decreased more than 8% sicne 2019. In the same year, however, fatal crashes involving alcohol have only decreased by less than 1% from 351 fatal crashes in 2019.
The decrease of alcohol-related crashes causing injuries has been a little stronger, showing more than 12% in decreased incapacitating injuries and roughly 16.5% decrease in other injuries. Even with this promising trend, according to the CDC, Florida’s impaired driving crash statistics typically fall above the nation’s average, especially among those age 21 to 34.
Advocating for the Injured Since 1995
Our award-winning legal team has been advocating for accident injury victims since 1995, including those who have sustained injuries in drunk driving accidents. Our firm’s devotion to client service and seeking justice has led to the recovery of millions of dollars in damages for our clients.
Our skilled personal injury attorneys have ample experience negotiating with insurance companies and settling claims for our clients. We also understand some cases have to go to trial. When settlement isn’t an option, we are ready to fight for you in the courtroom.
We cannot guarantee results in any particular case, but we can promise to diligently pursue the best outcome for your drunk driving accident case.
Hire a Seasoned Drunk Driving Accident Lawyer From Viles & Beckman
Our attorneys understand the challenges you might face after being injured in a drunk driving accident. We can guide you through the lawsuit process, investigate the accident, and build a strong case against the drunk driver who caused you harm so that you have the time and energy to focus on healing and rehabilitation.
If you or a loved one sustained injuries or died in a drunk driving accident, you deserve full and fair compensation for your losses. To get in touch with our drunk driving accident lawyers in Fort Myers, contact Viles & Beckman today online or call us for a free consultation to evaluate your case and determine your eligibility for compensation.