If you have sustained injuries in an accident caused by a drunk driver, you are the victim of a crime. In addition, you may recover compensation for your accident-related losses by filing a Port Richey drunk driving accident claim against the motorist who hit you. Not only do you have the legal right to obtain compensation for your losses, but drunk drivers need to experience the consequences of their actions. Doing so may prevent future innocent victims from being injured—or even killed—by other drunk drivers in the future. It helps keep the roads of Port Richey safer for everyone.
The experienced Port Richey drunk driving accident lawyers at Nicoletti Accident Injury Lawyers are here to help. Let us fight for your legal rights so you can focus on making the best possible recovery from your injuries.
Where Do Port Richey Drunk Driving Accidents Take Place
The more traffic a road has, the more likely it is that accidents will occur. This fact is why drunk driving accidents are unfortunately common in the Port Richey area. U.S Route 19 is the major north-south thoroughfare through Port Richey.
In town, we have many busy roads that are also known to be accident hot spots. Ridge Road, Main Street, and Massachusetts Avenue can be dangerous for drivers, passengers, motorcycle riders, bicyclists, pedestrians, and other road users. In addition, any area with bars or restaurants may have a higher-than-average concentration of drunk drivers in the vicinity.
Florida’s death rate per capita was higher than the national average in almost every age group, and Florida drivers also reported driving after drinking too much at a higher rate than the national average. These are troubling statistics that point to a serious drunk driving problem in Florida. Impaired drivers must be held accountable for their actions to prevent injury—and death—to other innocent victims.
Florida experiences a significant number of drunk driving deaths every year. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 8,476 victims lost their lives in Florida drunk driving accidents between 2003 and 2012. Every year in the Port Richey area, we see about 144 crashes attributed to alcohol that cause 135 injuries and about 15 deaths.
In any auto accident case, the injury victim must prove that the defendant caused the accident through his or her negligence. There are many ways in which a driver can be negligent: speeding, running a stop sign, being distracted by a mobile device, or making an improper lane change are some common examples.
Drunk driving is one of the most egregious examples of negligence. It poses an immediate and obvious danger to everyone else on the road. When a driver has been charged with DUI after an accident, the insurance company will almost always accept liability. It is difficult to argue that a driver wasn’t negligent when there is strong evidence that the driver was drunk when the accident occurred.
So how do you prove that the other driver was drunk at the time of the accident? Call law enforcement to the scene of any accident involving a suspected drunk driver. They will need to collect evidence as soon as possible. Remember, the body metabolizes alcohol, and the driver’s blood alcohol level will decrease if the police do not get a breath, blood, or urine sample right away.
Hopefully, the prosecutor handling the case issues charges and obtains a conviction against the drunk driver. Even if there is no criminal case, you can still pursue your Port Richey drunk driving accident case, but it may be more difficult to prove intoxication without a finding of guilt in a criminal case. That said, if the driver would have been at fault for the accident regardless of intoxication, you can typically recover without having to prove that he or she was drunk.
In any Port Richey drunk driving case, it is important to identify all potential parties who might be liable for causing your injuries. This is because any liable party has a legal obligation to compensate you for the portion of your losses that they caused. If you omit a liable party, you might be missing out on compensation to which you are legally entitled. In addition to the drunk driver, here are some other potential defendants who might have a legal obligation to pay for your injuries:
The Establishment or Social Host That Served the Port Richey Drunk Driver
Many states have enacted dram shop laws that impose liability on establishments such as bars or social hosts who serve a driver too much alcohol. Under these statutes, the establishment will be liable victims who are injured by the person they overserved.
Florida has a limited dram shop statute. An establishment or social host is usually not liable for overserving, but there are two important exceptions. First, if they willingly and unlawfully furnish alcohol to a minor, they can be held liable for injuries caused by that intoxicated minor. Second, if they serve a person who is “habitually addicted to the use of any or all alcoholic beverages,” the establishment or social host can also be held liable.
An Employer Who Owns the Company Vehicle
Employers are generally held liable for any negligence committed by employees acting in the scope and course of their employment. This means that an employer could be liable for drunk driving injuries if the employee was allowed to drive a company vehicle while intoxicated.
If the employee did not have permission to be drinking, and the accident occurred outside the scope and course of the employment, the employer would likely not be vicariously liable for the employee’s negligence. But the employer could still be liable for its own negligence in allowing someone to drive a company vehicle while intoxicated.
Auto insurance policies for company vehicles generally cover accidents caused by anyone who had permission to use the vehicle. Because of this, injury victims can sue employers for their negligence in allowing an employee to drive a company vehicle while intoxicated.
A Friend Who Let the Port Richey Drunk Driver Borrow a Car
Auto insurance covers specified vehicles. Drivers named on the policy must be covered, but the policy also covers negligence committed by someone who had permission to borrow the car. So if, for example, a thief stole a car, the policy would not cover an accident caused by the car thief. But if someone gave a friend permission to borrow the car, and the friend causes an accident while driving drunk, the auto policy will usually cover the accident. This means that the injury victim could sue the owner of the vehicle to access the policy funds. If there is no insurance coverage, victims may still sue the vehicle owner for his or her negligence in allowing the driver to borrow the car while intoxicated.
The Parents of an Underage Port Richey Drunk Driver
As we have seen, the owner of any vehicle is responsible for negligence committed by a person who had permission to drive it. This means that parents can be held liable for allowing a minor (under the age of 21) to drive a vehicle with any alcohol in their system. Furthermore, under the dram shop statute, parents can also be liable for serving alcohol to a minor. In either event, it is important to ask your lawyer whether parents can be held liable for any injuries caused by a drunk driver under the age of 21.
Boating Under the Influence
Operating a boat under the influence of alcohol (BUI) is illegal under Florida law. Like drunk drivers, boat operators who are impaired can be held liable for injuries they cause. BUI cases can be slightly more complicated than drunk driving cases. Boating liability insurance is not always required—especially for small boats. Even if there is a boat liability policy, it might have exclusions that prevent you from getting coverage.
The boater, however, might have an umbrella policy. Many rental boats have corporate policies held by the owner. Regardless of coverage, it is important to hold negligent boaters accountable for operating under the influence. They, too, can cause injury and death to innocent victims.
Tragically, not all victims survive the injuries that are inflicted upon them by drunk drivers. If a drunk driver kills a person, his or her surviving family members have the right to file a wrongful death lawsuit. The Florida Wrongful Death Act determines how and when surviving family members may file a wrongful death lawsuit. They also specify who may file such a lawsuit and what damages they are entitled to.
If an impaired driver kills a victim, technically, no one has a personal injury claim against the driver. Instead, a personal representative is appointed by the court to represent the victim’s estate in a wrongful death case. The personal representative is usually a surviving spouse, parent, or child. It could also be an attorney or professional estate administrator.
If no close family members survive the victim, the statutory heirs have a right to file a wrongful death lawsuit through the personal representative. These heirs could be aunts, uncles, cousins, or even more distant relations who the victim might never have met. Even if there was not a close relationship, it is important to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the drunk driver to hold him or her accountable for the devastating loss they caused.
Damages are slightly different in a wrongful death case than in a personal injury case. In a personal injury case, the victim sues for economic losses (such as lost wages and medical bills). The victim can also sue for non-economic damages, such as a decreased quality of life, missing out important life events, and the stress and anxiety of the accident.
In a wrongful death suit, the victim’s estate sues for economic damages resulting from the death. Common examples are funeral and burial expenses and medical expenses incurred trying to save the victim. Economic damages can also include wages the victim would have earned for the rest of his or her life (including employment benefits, such as retirement contributions).
Instead of filing a claim for the victim’s pain and suffering, the surviving family members make a claim for their own non-economic damages in a wrongful death lawsuit. This is known as a loss of consortium claim. It covers the intangible losses felt by a spouse, parent, or child after the victim’s death. A child has a claim for the loss of parental guidance and affection. A surviving spouse has a claim for the loss of spousal companionship.
These are very real, personal losses that are compelling to juries. Imagine the power of a widow’s testimony about the pain she feels at never being able to see her husband again. Insurance companies and defense lawyers know that these cases do not go well for them in front of juries. They will often make larger settlement offers that fairly compensate survivors for loss of consortium to avoid a jury trial.
Drunk driving is a major public health risk in America. Across the United States, thousands of innocent victims are killed every year due to the poor choices of drunk drivers. You have the legal right to compensation for all injuries and losses that a drunk driver caused, so consult a lawyer as soon as possible after an accident to protect these rights.
The experienced drunk driving accident lawyers at the Nicoletti Accident Injury Lawyers fight hard to protect your legal right to compensation for all of your injuries and losses, past and future. Contact us for your free consultation.
You need to know what will happen after a drunk driving accident and how to protect your legal rights throughout the claims process. Below are some of the most frequent questions posed to our attorneys about drunk driving accidents.
Where do drunk driving accidents occur in Port Richey?
Drunk driving accidents are likely to occur around drinking establishments. Be careful when driving in the vicinity of bars and restaurants in the Port Richey area, especially along the popular waterfront destinations in Marina Palms and Richey Cove. Drunk drivers are also likely to be found on the most used thoroughfares of a town.
In Port Richey, this means drivers should use caution when driving along the 19. It would be best if you also were careful along the major surface streets that serve Port Richey. Embassy Boulevard, Ridge Road, and Washington Street all provide access to different parts of town and thus get heavy traffic. Use extra caution when driving along these routes.
What about other types of impaired driving in Port Richey?
Alcohol is not, of course, the only substance that can impair a driver. Street drugs have long been a problem in the United States. In recent years, the opioid epidemic has shed light on the problem of prescription drug abuse. Some people even get high with substances found around the house, such as by snorting bath salts or huffing paint fumes. The law allows charges against a driver for driving while impaired by any of these individual substances or a combination of them.
Even if the driver receives no criminal charge, you can still prove that they were negligent in a civil lawsuit. We all must hold impaired drivers accountable for the losses they cause. This accountability is the only way to reduce the number of impaired drivers on the road and discourage other drivers from engaging in this destructive behavior.
What should I do after a drunk driver hits me in Port Richey?
After any accident, call 911 right away, especially following an accident involving drunk driving. You will need evidence of impairment, and a sworn law enforcement officer is legally authorized to get this evidence. They might perform field sobriety tests or ask the suspected drunk driver to take a Breathalyzer.
If the driver refuses, the officer can get a warrant to obtain a sample of the driver’s blood, breath, or urine to test it for the presence of alcohol. All of this evidence will be critical to proving that the driver was impaired (and therefore negligent).
Once you have addressed your immediate medical needs and recovered from the shock of the accident, hire your own injury lawyer as soon as possible. Your legal rights are placed in jeopardy as soon as an accident occurs. Anything you say on the scene (even something as simple as “I didn’t see you!”) can be used against you by a drunk driver’s insurance company.
When you hire a lawyer, all communications must go through your attorney’s office, protecting you from accidentally saying something that could hurt your case. Your lawyer will also advise you on other important steps to take to protect your legal rights.
Do I need to hire a Port Richey drunk driving accident lawyer?
There are important reasons to hire a lawyer. The first is to protect you from saying or doing anything that could hurt your claim. This preventative protection includes posting on social media platforms, which insurance companies are known to stalk through their investigators.
The second reason is that you may not know what your claim is really worth. Comparable claims in your local area determine the fair value of a claim. Examining the settlement values or jury awards in these cases helps your lawyer determine what the fair value of your claim really is. Injury lawyers handle many of these cases, so they are familiar with comparable cases and what factors could affect the outcome of your case if it were to go to trial.
For these reasons, studies have consistently found that injury victims who hire a lawyer receive higher settlements than those who choose to settle their claims on their own.
Will I have to go to court for my Port Richey drunk driving accident case?
The vast majority of Port Richey drunk driving accident claims settle outside of court. In these cases, no one files a lawsuit, and the victim never has to go to court. Even if your attorney has to file a lawsuit on your behalf, this does not mean that you must go to court. In many cases, the mere act of filing a lawsuit is enough to elicit a fair settlement offer from the insurance company.
Even if your attorney has to proceed through the discovery and disclosure process, you still might not have to go to court. A case can settle at any point during the litigation process. On the unlikely chance that your case proceeds all the way to trial, your injury lawyer will prepare you for what to expect before you must appear in court. You won’t be alone in the process.
What if the Port Richey drunk driver is not convicted?
A criminal case against a drunk driver is separate from a civil case for personal injuries. In a criminal case, a prosecutor files a case against the drunk driver on behalf of the state for committing a crime. In your civil case, you are filing a case against the drunk driver for causing your financial losses, meaning that your Port Richey drunk driving accident case can proceed regardless of what happens in the criminal case.
A court may not convict the driver at trial. they could settle the criminal charges through a plea agreement. The prosecutor might decline to file charges at all due to evidentiary issues. If, for example, the officers failed to get a warrant before obtaining blood, this evidence would not be admissible and potentially leaving the prosecutor with a weak and unwinnable case. None of these actions impairs your ability to win your civil case.
Your attorney does not have to meet the high criminal standard of “beyond a reasonable doubt.” Instead, they need only prove that it is more likely than not that the driver was negligent. Your attorney does not even need proof of impairment, only evidence of dangerous driving behaviors. So do not worry about the driver’s criminal conviction. Regardless of what happens in the criminal court, your injury lawyer can prove your case separately in the civil court.
Who else can be liable for a Port Richey drunk driving accident?
In some rare cases, state laws allow someone other than the drunk driver to be held legally responsible for injuries caused by a drunk driver. Florida has limited these circumstances to essentially a single situation: the impaired minor. Section 768.125 of the Florida Statutes allows the imposing of liability on anyone who sells or furnishes alcoholic beverages to a person who is not of lawful drinking age. A liquor store, bar, or even the minor’s parents who supplied their child with alcohol can be accountable for your personal injuries if that minor drove drunk and caused an accident as a result.
What compensation am I owed for my Port Richey drunk driving accident injuries?
The nature and severity of your injuries determine the fair value of your Port Richey drunk driving accident claim. It is a combination of compensation for your tangible losses and your intangible losses.
Here are some examples of the tangible losses that Port Richey drunk driving accident victims may suffer:
- Medical bills
- Rehabilitative services (physical therapy, chiropractic care, etc.)
- Lost wages
- Property damage
- Lost deposits (for example, if you can’t make a previously planned flight due to your injuries)
The law refers to your intangible losses as “pain and suffering.” These cover such losses as:
- The physical pain of your injuries
- The emotional suffering associated with the stress of being in an accident
- Missing out on important events (graduations, weddings, holiday gatherings)
- Loss of enjoyment of life (for example, if you can no longer participate in a hobby)
If you have permanent injuries that prevent you from returning to work at all, you could also have additional losses, such as:
- Loss of future earning potential (the wages you would have earned between the time of the accident and your expected retirement)
- Projected medical expenses for the rest of your life
- Ongoing rehabilitation (including speech therapy, occupational therapy, etc.)
- Any modifications that are necessary to your home (such as a wheelchair ramp)
- An accessible vehicle
The specific facts of your unique circumstances determine the fair value of your case, making it very important to consult with a Port Richey drunk driving accident lawyer about the fair value of your specific case.
What if a victim does not survive a Port Richey drunk driving accident?
Unfortunately, not all accident victims survive their injuries. Thousands of Americans die every year at the hands of drunk drivers. When this happens, surviving family members have the right to file a wrongful death claim against the drunk driver. Florida’s Wrongful Death Act is part of Sections 768.16 through 768.26 of the Florida Statutes. These statutes set forth who may sue, what losses are recoverable, and other requirements of wrongful death claims filed in the state courts of Florida.
So what losses are recoverable? Some of these are tangible and easy to calculate. For example, the funeral, burial, or medical expenses paid on behalf of the victim are recoverable from the defendant. The estate can also claim lost wages from the time of death to the time of the victim’s expected retirement. This damage usually requires expert testimony from an economist who can calculate (and adjust for inflation) the victims’ expected wages and lost employment benefits (such as an employers’ contributions to health insurance premiums and retirement accounts).
Florida law also allows surviving spouses, parents, and children to sue for mental pain and suffering, including such intangible losses as a parent’s guidance or a spouse’s lost companionship. Not all states allow surviving family members to recover these damages. Many states restrict this to only surviving spouses, so surviving children and parents in Florida should be sure to consult with a Florida wrongful death lawyer about their legal rights to compensation.
What if a Port Richey drunk driver has insufficient insurance coverage to pay my claim, or no coverage at all?
Florida law requires drivers to carry personal injury protection on their own auto insurance policy, ensuring that injured drivers have easy access to insurance coverage for their medical bills without proving who was at fault for the accident. Drivers must also, however, carry liability coverage for the damages they cause.
State law requires a minimum amount of coverage to be purchased by all vehicle owners. It is a crime to drive without proof of financial responsibility on the public roads of Florida.
Of course, drunk drivers can also make the bad choice of driving without insurance coverage. When this happens, there are different options an injury victim can pursue. They can see if any other potential defendants (such as the manufacturer of a defective vehicle) are also legally responsible for causing their injuries. They can also seek restitution through the criminal courts via the Crimes Compensation Trust Fund. Doing so, however, first requires a criminal conviction of the defendant.
You might also have uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage on your own policy, specifically no-fault coverage that applies when another driver caused your injuries but has insufficient insurance coverage to compensate you for them. A lawyer can help you pursue many options to get compensation for injuries caused by a drunk driver.
If you have suffered injuries in an accident caused by a drunk driver, you have important legal rights. One of these is the right to file a claim against the drunk driver to enforce your right to compensation for all the injuries and losses you have suffered.
You don’t have to navigate these difficult processes alone. Call Nicoletti Accident Injury Lawyers at (727) 845-5972 or contact us online for your free consultation. Our experienced personal injury attorneys have helped many Port Richey victims protect their legal rights after being injured in a drunk driving accident, and we are committed to getting you the full and fair value of your claim.