When drivers who have been consuming alcohol get behind the wheel, they put themselves and everyone with whom they share the road 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.
At Viles & Beckman, we have decades of experience advocating for drunk driving victims who deserve compensation for losses related to their accident and injuries. If you have suffered injuries because of a drunk driver, let us help you seek justice. Contact Viles & Beckman at 239-334-3933 for a free consultation to discuss the details of your accident and injuries and determine the best course of action for your circumstances.
Viles & Beckman: Advocating for the Injured Since 1995
The award-winning legal team at Viles & Beckman has been advocating for accident injury victims since 1995, including those who have sustained injuries in drunk driving accidents. The 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.
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 thirty years. Data from Florida’s Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV) confirms this trend. Traffic crashes in Florida involving alcohol have decreased more than 7 percent in the last three years of FLHSMV crash data. In the same three-year period fatal crashes involving alcohol have decreased by almost 24 percent from a high of 450 fatal crashes in 2015. The decrease of alcohol-related crashes causing injuries hasn’t been as strong, only changing by a little less than seven percent.
Even with this promising trend, Florida’s alcohol-related crash statistics typically fall above the nation’s average, especially among those age 21 to 34.
Drunk Driving Accident Injuries
Some of those who were in a drunk driving accident have walked away, 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 causes life-changing and/or life-threatening injuries, causing 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:
- Head trauma. 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.
- Back injuries. A driver’s or passenger’s body can contort into a variety of 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.
- Limb crush. 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.
Accidents Occur More Frequently When Alcohol Is Involved
Those who drive under the influence risk causing multiple types of collisions with their vehicle. They might only 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:
- Head-on collisions. 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.
- Rear-end collisions. 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 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.
- Wrong-way collisions. 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.
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 percent of medical treatment and 60 percent 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 personal injury attorney.
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. Florida law allows those injured by a drunk driver to sue bars, restaurants, and other business 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.
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 when a drunk driving accident causes a catastrophic injury requiring 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 attorney will advise you on what applies to your particular situation.
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 percent at fault for the accident, you can only collect 75 percent 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.
A competent drunk driving accident lawyer will protect you from these tactics and advocate for you to get the best outcome for your situation.
Hire a Seasoned Drunk Driving Accident Lawyer From Viles & Beckman
The skilled personal injury attorneys at Viles & Beckman 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 you have the time and energy to focus on healing and rehabilitation. Our team includes skilled negotiators who will seek the best settlement possible, and are willing to go to trial when settlement is not an option.
If you or a loved one sustained injuries or died in a drunk driving accident, you deserve full and fair compensation for your losses. If you live in the Fort Myers area, contact Viles & Beckman today online or call 239-334-3933 for a free consultation to evaluate your case and determine your eligibility for compensation. If you choose Viles & Beckman to represent you in your drunk driving accident case, you will not have to pay attorney fees upfront. We handle these cases on contingency and deduct our fees from any compensation we secure for you.