Throughout the nation, someone is injured in a drunk driving crash every 90 seconds, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Victims involved in an alcohol-impaired driving collision can suffer serious injuries that cause physical pain, financial devastation, and emotional trauma. A fatal drunk driving accident leaves the survivors shattered and trying to pick up the pieces of their lives without their loved one.
If you were injured in a Florida drunk driving accident, or you lost a loved one because of a drunk driving crash, you may be wondering if you should sue the drunk driver. An experienced Melbourne car accident lawyer at Layman Law Firm, P.L. can help. Let us put our extensive experience and considerable resources to work pursuing justice for you and your family. We are committed to holding drunk drivers accountable and ensuring that you are compensated for your injuries or loss.
Melbourne Drunk Driving Accidents
Despite concerted efforts by law enforcement agencies, government officials, and advocacy groups to bring awareness to the dangers of drinking and driving, drunk driving accidents continue to happen at an alarming rate on the nation’s roadways. Moreover, the State of Florida ranks near the top of the list of states with the most impaired driving accidents each year. In Brevard County, there were 161 alcohol-impaired accidents in 2021. Those accidents resulted in 108 injuries and 13 deaths, according to figures released by the Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FHSMV). Unfortunately, that marks an increase in both the number of accidents and the number of injuries from previous years.
What Are Some Common Drunk Driving Accident Injuries?
The occupants of a vehicle involved in a motor vehicle collision are always at risk of being seriously injured in a crash. When the driver of an involved vehicle is driving while under the influence of alcohol, the risk of serious injury, including death, increases exponentially. Some of the more common drunk driving accident injuries include:
- Internal organ damage
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Spinal cord injuries
- Broken bones
- Burn injuries
Do Drunk Driving Accidents Happen More Frequently during the Holidays?
The holidays are supposed to be a time to revel in the spirit of the season, spend time with loved ones, and look forward to a new year. Unfortunately, many people include alcohol in their holiday revelry and then get behind the wheel of a vehicle, making the holidays the most dangerous time of the year to be on the nation’s roadways. Year after year, the period between Thanksgiving week and New Year’s Day sees a marked increase in both arrests for driving under the influence and accidents involving drunk drivers.
What Are Some Challenges I Might Face If I Was Injured in a Drunk Driving Accident?
The victim in a drunk driving accident faces all the challenges that come with being involved in any motor vehicle collision plus those that are unique to a crash involving a drunk driver. Unfortunately, those challenges can make it extremely difficult for a victim or surviving family members to fully recover physically, financially, and emotionally from the accident. Some of the obstacles and hurdles that victims and family members often encounter include:
- Finding medical treatment. It is critical, both for your health and for future litigation, that you submit to a thorough medical examination as soon after the accident as possible. Serious injuries, such as traumatic brain injury, often do not produce obvious symptoms for hours, even days, after a collision. It is equally important that you follow up with any recommended medical treatment, including psychological counseling.
- Communicating with insurance companies. You may receive a telephone call or written correspondence from the drunk driver’s liability insurance company shortly after the accident. If so, you may not know how to respond. Insurance companies count on that. In fact, they intentionally contact victims soon after a collision hoping to catch the victim off guard and get the victim to agree to a token amount of money to settle all claims against their insured.
- Documenting injuries. The amount of compensation to which you may be entitled will depend on several factors, including your ability to prove “damages.” In legal terms, “damages” refers to losses suffered because of the negligent or wrongful conduct of another party. To ensure that you are fully and fairly compensated, you need to document your damages, which may include things such as injuries (both physical and emotional), property damage, and lost wages.
- Navigating the justice system. The biggest challenge most victims and survivors face in a drunk driving accident is navigating the judicial system. Driving under the influence is a criminal offense, meaning you may find yourself the victim in a criminal prosecution. Drunk driving, however, has also long been considered negligent conduct, providing the basis for a civil lawsuit based on negligence. Consequently, you may find yourself trying to understand your role in both a criminal prosecution and a civil lawsuit.
Why Should I Pursue a Civil Lawsuit?
A common mistake that injured victims and surviving family members make is to rely on the criminal justice system when a drunk driver causes injuries or death. It is crucial to understand that our criminal and civil justice systems in the United States are separate components of our judicial system. While a drunk driver may be charged with the crime of driving under the influence, the compensation available to injured victims in a criminal prosecution is limited. A criminal court can only order a defendant to pay restitution for actual damages suffered by a victim. Moreover, the court’s ability to make a defendant pay any restitution ordered is also limited. For example, a criminal court cannot order a defendant to pay for pain and suffering nor can the court utilize enforcement tools available in civil court to satisfy a judgment against the defendant.
Florida is a “no-fault” insurance state, meaning that all drivers are required to carry a minimum amount of Personal Injury Protection (PIP) insurance coverage. Without regard to who was at fault, your own PIP coverage pays your medical bills if you are injured in an accident; however, PIP insurance has limits and does not compensate for non-economic damages, commonly referred to as “pain and suffering.” Fortunately, if your injuries exceed the “serious injury” threshold you have the right to go outside of the no-fault system and pursue a traditional personal injury lawsuit. To file a traditional lawsuit, a drunk driving accident must result in one or more of the following:
- Significant and permanent loss of an important bodily function.
- Permanent injury within a reasonable degree of medical probability, other than scarring or disfigurement.
- Significant and permanent scarring or disfigurement.
The benefits of filing a traditional personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit are numerous. Among the most important benefits is the ability to recover both economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages include objective losses, such as medical bills, car repairs, and lost wages. Non-economic damages cover the subjective injuries or loss a victim suffers and includes things such as mental anguish, pain and suffering, and loss of companionship.
Contact An Experienced Melbourne Car Accident Lawyer at Layman Law Firm, P.L.
If you were injured in a drunk driving accident, or you lost a loved one because of a drunk driver, contact an experienced Melbourne car accident lawyer at Layman Law Firm, P.L. to discuss your legal options as soon as possible. We can help you find medical treatment, communicate with insurance companies on your behalf, and guide you through the legal system. Most importantly, we are committed to aggressively pursuing the drunk driver that caused or contributed to your injuries to ensure that they are held accountable and that you receive the compensation you deserve. Contact the team today for your free initial consultation by calling 321-773-2111 or filling out our convenient Intake Evaluation Form online.