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 Walker 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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 Walker 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.
“The Nicoletti Law firm is by far the best law firm for your needs. The entire firm treats you as family and are there for you when needed the most. Above all else they will give you straight honest answers and guide you to the best outcome for your case. Highly recommend this firm.”
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NICOLETTI WALKER ACCIDENT INJURY LAWYERS – PORT RICHEY
Port Richey 34668