Under Florida law, drunk driving is a criminal offense, punishable by jail time, fines, license suspension, and other penalties. Furthermore, if you're the victim of a DUI accident, you should receive restitution for your medical bills, lost wages, vehicle damage, and your pain and suffering. However, if a drunk driver has hit you, you won't be able to rely on the criminal justice system to force the at-fault driver to pay compensation for your injuries.
You do have options, though. Weinstein Legal is a personal injury law firm that helps accident victims make full financial recoveries. Call our Florida law office for a free consultation and immediate representation.
What Benefits Are Available If a Drunk Driver Has Hit You?
If a drunk driver has struck you, you may be wondering if they will be forced to pay for your damages. The surprising answer is that, from a civil standpoint, DUI accidents are handled similarly to accidents involving no alcohol. Florida is a no-fault state when it comes to car accidents. “No-fault” means that your insurance will pay to the limits of your policy for your injuries and vehicle damage. Florida's no-fault laws can be beneficial if the other driver is uninsured or you're injured in a hit-and-run accident, which often occurs with drunk drivers. However, no-fault does not mean that the other driver is off the hook for damages. You can still sue the other driver or their insurance company for additional damages if your policy doesn't cover the extent of your injuries.
Personal injury attorneys differentiate between economic and non-economic damages. Here are the differences.
This type of damages covers any expense that you incur as a result of an accident. Hospital bills, prescription medicine costs, vehicle damage estimates, and money you lose from not working all fall under economic damages. Personal injury attorneys are familiar with all types of economic damages that a settlement demand should include.
The toll of a car accident goes well beyond the dollar amounts required for proper medical attention and damage repair. You may sustain painful injuries that take a long time to heal. In addition, accidents are traumatic experiences that often cause psychological issues. Pain and suffering damages seek to compensate victims for the intangible costs of an accident.
The courts award punitive damages when they seek to punish the defendant. In Florida, punitive damages are capped at three times the amount of compensatory damages or $500,000, whichever is higher. Punitive damages are awarded to the plaintiff. Punitive damages are often awarded in DUI cases, particularly when the driver was convicted in criminal court or has a history of drunk driving arrests.
What to Do If a Drunk Driver Hits You
The steps you take immediately after a drunk driver hits you may affect the criminal case against the other party and any future civil action. In many ways, DUI accidents are similar to other accidents, with a few significant differences.
Check on your injuries and the injuries of other passengers in your vehicle. Only move injured parties if their location places them in further danger.
In Florida, police are dispatched to every accident. That does not, however, mean that they will arrive there expeditiously. If there are injuries or you suspect that the other driver is drunk, convey that information to the dispatcher. If the other car is trying to leave the scene, give the dispatcher the description, license plate number, vehicle damage, and direction of travel.
Interacting with a Drunk Driver
If you make contact with the other driver, use caution. Remember that drunk individuals are often prone to violence. Look for the physical indicators of intoxication:
- Bloodshot eyes
- Slurred speech
- Poor balance and motor skills
- The odor of an alcoholic beverage
- Drunk or belligerent tone
Don't address drinking with the other driver. Make a mental note of your observations and tell the officers when they arrive on the scene.
Take Pictures or Videos
Use your cellphone camera to take images or videos of the accident scene. Include vehicle damage, injuries, location indicators, etc. If you see open containers in the other driver's vehicle, try to safely get a picture or include it in your video sweep.
Allow Rescue to Examine You. Seek Medical Treatment.
Allow the paramedics to examine your injuries, and if necessary, transport you to the hospital. This will not harm your case. On the contrary, it will establish a baseline for a future accident claim.
Contact a Personal Injury Law Firm
If you've been injured in an accident, you are entitled to compensation. Insurance companies are quick to settle claims because they would like to minimize their payout. If you hire a car accident lawyer, they can negotiate on your behalf to get you full and fair compensation. Weinstein Legal works on a contingency basis. You don't have to pay out of pocket for our professional legal advice. We can start our representation from our first meeting, so you'll have legal protection as you pursue your claim.
Frequently Asked Questions About DUI Accidents
DUI accident victims often ask these questions during our initial consultations. Call our law office for specific information and talk to an attorney for free.
Can I File a Claim Against a Drunk Driver?
Typically, your claim will go through the responsible insurer. There are, however, times when it would be in your best interest to file a civil suit against the drunk driver as well. A personal injury lawyer can help you determine the steps to pursue a drunk driver for damages.
Does the Other Driver Have to Be Convicted of DUI for Me to Have a Case?
The standard for prosecution in criminal court is much higher than the standard for proving negligence in civil courts. For this reason, many drunk drivers beat their criminal charges but are still required to pay damages in civil court. In other words, your civil case shouldn't hinge on the outcome of the criminal case.
What Is the Statute of Limitations for Filing a Claim in Florida?
In most car accident cases, you have four years from the date of the accident to file a claim. You should not wait, however. Evidence becomes more difficult to collect as time elapses. Contact a car accident lawyer to get started.
Can I Afford an Accident Attorney?
If you're hesitant about hiring a personal injury lawyer because of the initial costs, you should be aware that car accident lawyers in Florida work on a contingency basis. That means that they only collect upon the successful completion of the case. If your attorney doesn't win, they make nothing from your case.
Florida Lawyers for DUI Accident Victims
The experienced personal injury lawyers at the Weinstein Legal Team represent car accident victims throughout the State of Florida. If you've sustained injuries in a DUI accident, you are entitled to compensation for your medical costs, lost wages, vehicle damages, and pain and suffering. You may even receive punitive damages for the other driver's egregious behavior. Call today to speak with an attorney for free.