Drunk driving is incredibly unsafe. In Florida in 2016 (the most recent year with full statistics), there were 5,223 car crashes involving alcohol, 417 of which were fatal. Florida law punishes drunk drivers by making it a crime to drive under the influence. These criminal laws may help drunk driving accident victims hold the drunk driver accountable for the crash. However, the legal concept of “fault” is often quite complex, and it may not be accurate to say that a drunk driver is always at fault for a car crash. Miami car accident lawyer Prosper Shaked explains how fault works in drunk driving accidents, and how victims can get compensation for injuries and vehicle damage.
When is a Drunk Driver at Fault for a DUI Car Crash?
Colloquially, we often say that someone is “at fault” for something when they are 100% to blame. In most car accident and truck accident cases, facts are more complex, and both parties might share some of the blame. However, when the question involves who will pay damages for injuries and medical expenses, there needs to be a definitive answer as to who caused the crash.
Under Florida law, it is illegal to drive drunk. That means that if a driver gets behind the wheel after drinking too much to drive safely, they are breaking the law and doing something society automatically considers dangerous. Traffic laws help define the duty that drivers owe one another on the road. If someone breaks a traffic law, they violate that duty and could be deemed negligent. Any driver who causes a crash through their negligence shares in the blame for causing the accident. That means that a drunk driver is automatically “at fault,” legally speaking.
However, the drunk driver might not be the only party at fault. You might not win your case simply because the other driver was drunk if you were also driving dangerously. For instance, a crash between a drunk driver who was properly stopped at a red light and a sober driver who ran a red light while driving double the speed limit with a suspended license might not always come out against the drunk driver.
Courts take the totality of the circumstances into account when assigning fault. In many cases, juries determine that both parties are partially at fault, and they assign a percentage of blame to each party. Often, juries may consider drunk driving 100% fault, but they could assign partial blame to the DUI victim if they were speeding, failed to yield, or otherwise drove dangerously. The DUI victim’s damages may be reduced by the percentage of blame they share, but the drunk driver is usually the one who ends up paying damages.
Suing for a Drunk Driving Accident
Many DUI accidents are handled in criminal courts, but this does not limit you from suing the driver, too. The criminal charges may result in “restitution” paid to DUI victims if the drunk driver is arrested, but these damages may not fully cover your needs. Drunk driving accidents are often very severe, since the driver may underestimate how fast they are driving and may not be able to react quickly enough to slow down or stop before the crash. That full momentum can cause serious injuries which could require immense medical expenses that restitution will not cover.
Even if the drunk driver has a criminal case for the DUI accident, you can still sue them in civil court for damages. These are two separate cases with different goals, and the goal of a personal injury lawsuit is always to compensate the injury victim for the harm they suffered. This means covering your medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering damages in full.
In many cases, the evidence, testimony, and record of conviction for the driver’s criminal case can help you prove your case. Police who responded to the scene or performed blood or breath tests on the drunk driver can testify to their drunken behavior, inability to drive safely because of intoxication, and more. The lab results used for the DUI charges could also become evidence in your case to help prove the driver was drunk. Lastly, the Rules of Evidence usually bar evidence that someone was convicted of a crime, but a certified record of conviction may be valuable evidence to refute the defendant if they claim they did not face prosecution for their drunk driving.
Miami Drunk Driving Accident Lawyer Offering Free Consultations for DUI Victims
If you or a loved one was injured in a car accident involving a drunk driver, or if a loved one was killed in an accident, talk to an attorney about your case today. Miami personal injury lawyer Prosper Shaked offers free consultations to help you understand what your case might be worth. Call today for a free consultation at (305) 694-2676.