Monday, July 3, 2017

Independence Day Means More Drunk Drivers on Florida’s Roads

According to the Center for Disease Control, Florida drivers report a higher rate of drunk driving than the national average, which is further exacerbated during summer holidays. Unfortunately, nearly 30 percent of all Florida motor vehicle-related fatalities are caused by drunk drivers, i.e., those driving with a blood alcohol level above 0.08. There are a plethora of Florida laws in place to both punish and help prevent drunk driving and DUI related injuries, but they seldom prevent holiday accidents.

Like many states, in Florida, it is illegal to operate a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol level above 0.08. It can be difficult, however, to gauge a person’s blood alcohol level after hours of extended Fourth of July celebrations with friends and family. For some, it takes their bodies longer to process and expel alcohol, and for others, they may simply lose track of how much alcohol they have consumed over the course of a long day. Many drunk drivers do not drive drunk intentionally but are unaware of how severely even a small amount of alcohol can affect their driving and reaction times.

Unfortunately, such reckless behavior can result in the death of your loved one. Florida has instituted “social host” liability law for those who either sell or furnish alcoholic beverages to either (1) a person under the age of 21 or (2) a person who is known by them to be a habitual drunk. If either of these situations is applicable, then the person who furnished the alcohol to the person who caused an accident can also be held liable for the victim’s injuries or death.

Why are Drunk Driving Accidents so Fatal?

It is one thing if a drunk driver with a delayed reaction time causes a “fender bender,” which can occur even if a driver was sober and simply not paying attention. It is another thing entirely when a drunk driver is driving 20 miles per hour over the speed limit on the wrong side of the highway, which is abnormal behavior for a sober driver. The fatalities associated with drunk driving increase with the blood alcohol level of the driver, because the more the driver drank, the more likely the following symptoms will manifest while he or she is on the road:

  • Impaired vision, hearing, and reaction time; 
  • Impaired physical control; 
  • Impaired balance, depth perception, and equilibrium; 
  • Dysphoria and confusion; 
  • Lack of physical control and blackout; and
  • Respiratory arrest. 

As you can imagine, if a driver is delusional, suffering from a medical emergency, or blacks out while driving, the results can be catastrophic and unpredictable. Drunk drivers who cause such fatalities in Florida can be charged with “vehicular homicide,” which is a felony.

As a means of preventing potential drunk driving accidents, Florida does permit the police to institute random sobriety checkpoints, which are especially prevalent on holidays such as the Fourth of July. At these checkpoints, the police are permitted to stop your vehicle even if they do not suspect you are drunk, and if after speaking with you, they have reason to believe you were drinking, they can perform a sobriety test on the road. It is estimated that 10 percent of drunk driving fatalities are prevented through the use of these checkpoints, but that still leaves 90 percent of Florida drunk drivers on the road. Also, for habitual drunk drivers, there are websites that allow you to check where sobriety checkpoints have been set-up; accordingly, if you and your family are traveling on the Fourth of July, you may be able to use such sites to your advantage and take roads with established sobriety checkpoints, which may help to protect you and your loved ones from drunk drivers over the holidays.

Compensation After a Drunk Driving Crash

Because driving while intoxicated is illegal in Florida and almost always has an impact on a driver’s ability to operate a motor vehicle, drunk drivers are assumed to be negligent under the doctrine of negligence per se. Insurance companies in Florida are generally required to cover the damages caused by a drunk driver, even though the behavior was illegal. This means that you have the option of seeking compensation through a drunk driver’s auto-insurance company. Further, you are entitled to seek compensation for your medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and loss of enjoyment of living if you were injured in a drunk driving accident. If a drunk driver killed your loved one, however, you can also file a claim for wrongful death against the driver as well as loss of the companionship of your child or spouse. You may also be entitled to ask the county prosecutor to file criminal charges against the drunk driver, which can also result in you receiving restitution from the driver for his or her recklessness. Although Florida no-fault law will help cover some of your initial expenses, due to the nature and severity of most drunk driving injuries, this is seldom enough to compensate you for your injuries and their resulting consequences.

Contact a Clearwater, Florida Personal Injury Attorney to Discuss your Options Today

Losing a loved one or watching them suffer as a result of a drunk driver can be one of the most frustrating experiences of your life. We are all guilty of brief inattention on the road from time to time, and it is one thing to suffer injuries as the result of a car accident when it was truly an unintended accident. It is another thing, however, when an irresponsible and reckless driver takes to the road knowing that he or she is potentially endangering the life of an innocent. If you or a loved one has been the victim of a drunk driving accident, contact the Dolman Law Group, your premier personal injury and car accident lawyers in the greater Tampa Bay area. They are here to fight for your right to compensation after a drunk driver has injured you. Contact them today online or at (727) 451-6900 for a free, no risk consultation.

Dolman Law Group
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, Florida 33765