Articles Posted in Drunk Driving

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Late last month, a suspected drunk driver hit and killed one Florida teen and injured several others in a hit-and-run accident. According to a local news report, the accident occurred in Polk County, near the intersection of Allegheny Road and Athbasca Drive.

Brandy GlassesEvidently, the motorist was operating a Kia Rio when witnesses say he leaned forward in the driver’s seat, losing control of the vehicle and driving off the road’s right shoulder. A few moments later, several children who had recently exited the bus at their designated bus stop were struck. An investigation after the accident indicated that there was no pre-collision braking, and the children all seemed to be off the road at the time of the collision.

After the car struck the children, the driver apparently regained awareness and proceeded to flee the scene. A witness to the accident followed the driver, who later crashed into another vehicle before coming to a stop. Police arrived on the scene and arrested the driver, whose blood-alcohol content was approximately twice the legal limit. The driver was charged with several offenses, including DUI manslaughter and leaving the scene of an accident resulting in death.

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Drinking too much can be very dangerous, and excessive alcohol consumption leads to about 88,000 deaths each year in the United States. But while most people are at greater risk of injury while drinking, some people may actually be shielded from liability under Florida law.

BoaterUnder Florida statute 768.36, a plaintiff cannot recover damages if at the time of the accident, the plaintiff was under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and the plaintiff is determined to be more than 50 percent at fault for the accident as a result of his intoxication. That means that a person who is injured may not be able to recover compensation from an at-fault party who contributed to their injury if the injured person was under the influence at the time. In order for this doctrine to apply, the plaintiff has to be under the influence to the extent that the person’s “normal faculties were impaired,” or the plaintiff had a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08 or higher. Of course, this leaves room for interpretation.

Under the statute, alcohol means any distilled spirit or any beverage with 0.5 percent or more alcohol by volume. In addition, the term “drug” refers to any controlled substance but does not include lawfully obtained drugs or medications that are taken according to a valid prescription. A drug also does not include a medication sold over the counter and taken in the recommended dosage. The statute arises from the concept of “comparative” or “contributory” negligence, which generally holds that a plaintiff’s recovery may be limited or barred by the plaintiff’s own negligence.

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Erick Santana & Michael CecereAccording to an October 12, 2016 CBS News article, the number of teenagers involved in deadly car crashes is rising for the first time in nearly a decade. In 2015, there was a 10-percent increase in teen driving deaths. “In fact, teenage drivers are more than one-and-a-half times more likely than adults to be involved in a deadly crash,” said personal injury attorney Erick Santana, a founding partner at Cecere Santana.

To help prevent fatal accidents involving teens, Santana and Cecere Santana co-founder Michael Cecere share the following three tips:

No. 1: Always wear your seat belt. “Of the teens who died in passenger vehicle crashes, approximately 55% were not wearing a seat belt at the time of the crash,” said Cecere. “Research shows that seat belts reduce serious crash-related injuries and deaths by about half.”

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Drunk driving has been plaguing the country for decades, and Florida is no exception. According to a statistic released by Mothers Against Drunk Driving, in Florida alone there have already been almost 700 fatalities caused by drunk driving in the year to date. This figure represents about one-third of all fatal traffic accidents.

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In hopes of curbing drunk driving, Florida legislators passed a Dram Shop Law decades ago to help hold the establishments that serve liquor to those who later go on to cause an accident responsible for their actions. Dram Shop Laws have been around for many years, and about 30 states have some form of them. In its most basic form, the law allows for the victim of a drunk driving accident to hold the establishment financially responsible for their injuries.

Of course, in order to prove a Dram Shop case in Florida, the plaintiff must prove certain elements. Specifically, Florida allows Dram Shop liability in two circumstances. The first is when an establishment provides alcohol to a minor, who then goes on to cause an accident. This scenario is fairly cut-and-dry. However, the second situation when Dram Shop liability may attach is when someone “knowingly serves a person habitually addicted to” alcohol, and that person goes on to cause an accident. Of course, this is more open to interpretation and may allow for a broader range of liability.

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Drunk driving is one of the most dangerous things someone can do while behind the wheel of a car. And in fact, the statistics reflect this with 676 deaths this year in Florida alone due to drunk and drugged driving. These represented about 28% of all fatal traffic accidents across the state.

the-last-drop-1306724It is for good reason, then, that the State of Florida makes drunk and drugged driving illegal. Any time a driver gets behind the wheel of a car with a blood-alcohol content of .08 or greater, they are driving drunk. Additionally, whenever someone is under the influence of any amount of illegal drugs, they are in violation of the same law. Even in cases in which a person is taking prescription medication, they may still be found to be liable if that medication influences their ability to safely drive the vehicle they are operating.

Not only is intoxicated driving illegal, but it may also be the basis of a civil lawsuit for monetary damages. Accident victims of drunk driving crashes can file a lawsuit against the drunk driver, seeking compensation for their medical expenses, time away from work, and any pain and suffering they endured as a result of the accident. These lawsuits, called negligence lawsuits, are common in drunk driving situations.

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It should not come as a surprise to anyone that driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol is dangerous. In fact, it is so dangerous that all 50 states have agreed to make it illegal to operate a vehicle while under the effects of drugs or alcohol. Not only is drunk driving illegal under the the criminal statutes of Florida, but also it can also give rise to civil liability in certain situations in which a drunk driver causes an injury to another motorist, passenger, or pedestrian.

highway-motion-1453997In Florida, a driver is per se “drunk” if they have a blood-alcohol content of .08 or greater. However, even if a driver’s blood-alcohol content is below that amount, they may still be in violation of the State’s ban on intoxicated driving if they have any quantity of alcohol in their system such that their “normal facilities are impaired.” This means that a driver can be considered under the influence even if they do not have a blood-alcohol content of .08 or greater. This same analysis applies to the use of prescription drugs. If a driver is impaired by the use of a prescription drug, they may still be found to have been intoxicated under the law.

This is important for those who have been injured by a driver whom they suspect was under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The negligence laws of Florida allow for injured accident victims to seek compensation from those who are responsible for their injuries. However, before an injured party is entitled to compensation, that party must first prove that the other driver was negligent in the operation of their vehicle. One way to do this is to show that they were legally “drunk” or otherwise intoxicated at the time of the accident, and that their intoxication caused the accident.

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Anyone who has successfully completed a driver’s education course knows that driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol is against the law and can result in the intoxicated driver facing criminal consequences. However, the drunk driver may also face additional liability through a civil lawsuit brought by anyone who was injured as a result of the driver’s decision to get behind the wheel while intoxicated. This may include other motorists or pedestrians on the road, and it may include passengers in the drunk driver’s vehicle as well.

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Drunk Driving Liability in Florida Courts

As noted above, drunk drivers can face criminal as well as civil liability. Criminal liability is what most people are familiar with when it comes to the penalties of drunk driving. This can include punishments like jail time, fines, and probation. However, the civil liability that can arise after a drunk driving accident can be equally significant, especially when serious personal injury results.

Drunk driving accident victims who sustain serious bodily injury can bring a lawsuit against the drunk driver, seeking monetary compensation for their past medical expenses and future medical needs, as well as for non-economic damages such as pain and suffering. These verdicts can be substantial in cases in which long-term injuries occur that will require treatment throughout an accident victim’s life.

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Earlier this month, on the day after Halloween, one man was killed when he was involved in an accident with another vehicle on the 5000 block of N.W. 32nd Avenue. According to a news report by the local CBS affiliate, the accident occurred in the early morning hours of November 1, just hours after most had finished celebrating the Halloween holiday.

halloween-pumpkins-2-1199288Evidently, a Chevy Camaro was traveling at a high rate of speed when the driver lost control of his vehicle. The Camaro crossed the center line and ended up facing oncoming traffic, where it was struck by a Dodge Charger. The impact from the collision caused the driver of the Camaro to be ejected from the vehicle.

One witness on the scene, still in a Halloween costume, told reporters that he didn’t realize there was a body at first, likely because it had been ejected from the vehicle. The witness attempted to perform CPR, but it was too late. The driver of the Camaro was pronounced dead at the scene once emergency crews arrived. The passengers in the Camaro, as well as the driver of the Charger, were all admitted to the hospital for the treatment of their injuries.

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Earlier this month, Miami Dade Commissioner Jose “Pepe” Diaz pleaded not guilty to allegations that he was operating his motorcycle while intoxicated. According to one local news source, the Commissioner was driving his Harley Davidson motorcycle on Roosevelt Boulevard at approximately 74 miles per hour. The speed limit on this section of Roosevelt Boulevard is 35 miles per hour.

harley-1450651Evidently, when officers pulled the Commissioner over, the officers had dash-cams and body-cams recording their entire interaction. It shows the unsteady Commissioner introducing himself as “Commissioner Diaz from Miami Dade County.” He also name-dropped by mentioning that Monroe County Sheriff Rick Ramsay knows his name.

The Commissioner declined the officers’ request that he take a blood-alcohol test, and regardless of how the case ultimately is decided, he will be required to forfeit his license for one year based on that refusal. The Commissioner’s attorney told reporters that he hopes that his client will be able to take advantage of some kind of diversionary program that may allow him to escape having a conviction on his record.

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Earlier this year, a 20-year-old woman was convicted of DUI manslaughter after killing two teens. Shortly before the fatal accident, the woman tweeted “2 drunk 2 care” to her boyfriend. The judge hearing the case sentenced her to 24 years in prison, in part due to the callousness of her behavior. However, according to one local Florida news source, sentences handed down for DUI manslaughter are not often this severe, and they vary widely depending on a number of circumstances.

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Another example mentioned in the article presents the other end of the spectrum. A single mother of two who suffered a history of domestic violence was sentenced to just four years in jail after she hit and killed a pedestrian while she was out on bail for a DUI manslaughter charge. To make matters worse, she allegedly fled the scene of the second accident before getting caught. However, the judge was swayed by the equities in the case and was lenient on the woman.

One final example was of a professional NFL player who hit and killed a pedestrian in a drunk driving accident. The pedestrian was not in the crosswalk at the time of the accident, which created some uncertainty as to whether the driver would ultimately be convicted. The NFL player was convicted but sentenced to just 30 days in jail and a lengthy period of probation. It later came out that the accident victim’s family was in favor of the deal and had received an undisclosed settlement from the drunk driver.

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