DUI Victim Lawyer
We help hold drunk drivers responsible for their reckless actions
DUI accidents are unique because criminal and civil causes of action can arise from a single incident. In 2020, the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles reported 4,554 alcohol-related crashes and 708 accidents that involved drugs. Driving after having “a few beers” unnecessarily puts others in danger. For that reason, accident victims may file a claim to receive compensation. Individuals who have been involved in a DUI accident should contact a Tampa DUI accident lawyer to explore their legal options. In addition to awarding compensatory damages for medical bills and lost wages, civil courts also award additional punitive damages to punish the intoxicated driver in some Tampa DUI cases.
Florida’s dram shop lawIn most states, a person or business that serves alcohol to an intoxicated person may be legally responsible if the intoxicated person causes an accident. Florida has a comparatively lax law that holds third parties who serve alcohol accountable. Under Florida’s law, the individual or business who serves the alcohol is only liable if the individual was underage or if the individual is addicted to alcohol. A Tampa DUI lawyer can gather evidence to establish the driver’s alcoholism if he or she had a drinking problem at the time of the accident.
How intoxication affects drivingDrinking and using drugs before driving may seem harmless. However, the effects drugs and alcohol have on the brain can cause an accident. Alcohol and drugs affect a driver’s perception. The intoxicated driver may falsely believe he or she is being extra careful or is otherwise in control of his or her behavior on the road. In reality, the vehicle may be traveling at an inappropriate speed, veering out of its lane, or otherwise behaving in a manner that is unpredictable to others on the road. When driving under the influence, an individual may misjudge distances and not allow enough space to avoid road hazards. The individual’s reaction time is likely to be slower. Drugs and alcohol can compromise a driver’s judgment. All of these factors can cause a collision.
Identifying an intoxicated driver on the roadWhile you can never be 100 percent sure at first glance whether someone else on the road has been drinking, there are telltale signs that suggest a driver may be intoxicated. If you notice a driver behaving erratically, drugs or alcohol may be a factor. Intoxicated drivers are also more likely to drive much slower than the posted speed limit. In other cases, the driver may speed without realizing how fast they are going. They may stop the car suddenly or erratically in the middle of the block or at intersections. Someone who is driving while intoxicated may be slow to respond to traffic signals and stop signs. They may visibly have difficulty maintaining their lane. The vehicle may drift in between lanes or dramatically across lanes. Drunk or otherwise intoxicated drivers are also more likely to follow the vehicle in front of them too closely.
If you observe signs of a drunk driver, it is best to move as far away from the vehicle as possible. Pull over into the nearest parking lot or safely on the side of the road, and call 9-1-1 to alert them of the vehicle driving dangerously on the road. Contacting law enforcement may save the lives of all drivers on the road, including the intoxicated driver.
What to do in the event of a DUI accidentIn the event of a DUI accident, the first priority is always to receive medical attention. Even people who feel completely uninjured immediately after the accident has taken place should receive a thorough medical exam. Some injuries do not cause pain or visible symptoms until days after the accident. Examples of accident injuries that sometimes do not immediately cause symptoms are:
- Back injuries
- Neck injuries
- Internal damage
- Soft tissue damage
- Broken bones
Certain injuries may worsen in severity if the accident victim delays undergoing a medical examination. Receiving an exam immediately after an accident means accident victims may receive a prompt diagnosis, rule out severe injuries of which they may otherwise be aware, and, if necessary, begin receiving treatment as early as possible.
Neck and back injuries after a DUI accidentNeck and back injuries can be mild or severe. Nevertheless, even a mild neck or back injury may cause an accident victim to be required to take time away from work to rest and attend medical appointments. Because there are so many muscles, nerves, spinal discs, and ligaments in the neck and back, diagnosing neck and back pain can be challenging. Therefore, doctors may try several treatments before finding one that works. Accident victims who sustain a neck or back injury may be recommended to undergo physical therapy, massage, chiropractic sessions, and in very severe cases, surgery. Accident victims may file a claim to receive compensation for medical expenses and lost wages due to the individual being required to miss work as part of the healing process.
Internal injuries cased by DUI accidentsIn a car accident, three collisions may take place. First, the vehicle collides with another vehicle or object. The impact of the first collision may cause vehicle occupants to collide with surfaces inside the vehicle. In some cases, a third collision takes place among the organs inside the vehicle occupant’s body. The internal organs may become injured during the second and third collisions. A DUI accident may cause internal bleeding that can lead to blood pooling and applying pressure to vital organs like the brain. The impact of the collision can also directly damage the kidney, liver, or spleen. An accident victim may sustain broken ribs, which can puncture a lung. Traumatic brain injuries can also occur and cause temporary or permanent symptoms if the brain collides with the skull.
Soft tissue damagePainful soft tissue damage may occur as a result of a DUI accident. Sprains and sprains are the most common types of soft tissue damage. A sprain occurs in the ligament, which is the connective soft tissue that joins two bones together at the joints. A ligament becomes strained when the ligament is abruptly stretched beyond its natural range of motion. If the ligament stretches too far or too suddenly, it can tear. A sprained or torn ligament may also cause a muscle tear. Strains are very similar to sprains. A strain occurs in the muscle or a tendon, which is a type of soft tissue that connects muscle to bone.
Soft tissue injuries are usually relatively minor. Doctors begin by prescribing rest, ice and heat therapy, and over-the-counter painkillers until the injured tissue heals. Some accident victims may also need additional treatment modalities like massage therapy. In severe cases, a doctor may recommend surgery to repair the damaged tissue.
Broken bones In Tampa DUI accidentsBroken bones most often resolve with rest and isolating the injury to avoid use. However, in some cases, a broken bone may require more extensive medical intervention. Open fractures require surgery to implant screws and rods to place the bone back in place and secure it. Surgery is also required in displaced fractures. In a displaced fracture, the bone has shifted and the broken ends no longer line up properly. A surgeon can realign the bone to allow the injury to heal properly.
Filing insurance claims for DUI accident injuriesFlorida requires drivers to carry a no-fault Personal Injury Policy (PIP). DUI accident victims must first file a claim with their own PIP after an accident. PIPs medical expenses, lost wages, and funeral expenses in fatal accidents. Although a PIP will cover an accident victim’s injuries without regard to fault, these policies only pay up to 80 percent of the victim’s expenses. PIPs also do not provide compensation for emotional damages.
Drivers in Florida generally are not required to carry Bodily Injury Liability (BIL) coverage. Therefore, an accident victim who is injured by a drunk driver who does not have BIL coverage may not be able to receive compensation for his or her physical injuries from the intoxicated driver’s insurance carrier. If the accident victim has his or her own Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist policy, the accident victim may be able to receive compensation by filing a claim under his or her own policy.