Personal Injury Lawsuits after a DUI Crash
We Sue Drunk Drivers After a Crash
If you were injured in a crash involving a drunk or impaired driver, contact the attorneys at Sammis Law Firm. Call (813) 250-0500.
The personal injury attorney should be well-versed in Florida’s DUI laws and how those facts impact the amount of money damages awarded to you after the crash.
Many of these cases involve the at-fault driver being arrested for one or more of the following offenses:
- DUI with property damage or personal injury;
- DUI with serious bodily injury;
- DUI manslaughter;
- Vehicular Homicide; or
- Leaving the Scene of a Crash.
If an allegation of drunk or impaired driving occurred in the case, then the drunk or impaired driver will often be found at fault for the crash. In addition to your actual damages, they might be required to pay punitive damages.
If you were injured in the crash, you need a personal injury attorney experienced in representing the victims of a DUI crash who can sue the at-fault driver.
Attorney for Personal Injuries after a DUI in Tampa, FL
Call us to find out how much your case is worth and how to maximize the monetary damages you receive. Never talk to the insurance company about your injuries or how the crash occurred until you have an attorney representing your interests in the civil case.
The decisions that you make in the hours and days after the crash can often play an essential role in how your personal injury claim is eventually settled.
An experienced attorney can help you at every stage of the case and relieve much of the stress and aggravation of finding justice and holding the at-fault driver responsible for the damages caused by the crash.
We can contact the at-fault driver on your behalf. If the at-fault driver carries liability insurance, the at-fault driver must contact their insurance company regarding the crash.
The at-fault driver can also return an information sheet so our law firm can communicate directly with the insurance company.
The information sheet asks for the name and address of the insurance company, the bodily injury limits, the name of the insured, the policy number, and the effective dates of the policy.
The first issue in these cases is determining the policy limits of the at-fault driver. Your attorney must also determine whether any other third parties can be held liable for damages, including anyone who served the driver alcohol before the crash, such as a bar or restaurant under Florida’s Dram Shop laws.
Hopefully, the at-fault driver has insurance policy limits sufficient to cover all of your damages. In many of these cases, the insurance company will just settle the case for those policy limits and that settlement might come very early in the case.
An attorney can help you decide how to maximize your settlement, in the event that you decide to settle the case prior to filing a personal injury lawsuit.
Because the policy limits might not be sufficient to cover all of your damages, your personal injury attorney will look at other at-fault parties that can be held liable for your damages.
If the at-fault driver was allegedly under the influence of drugs or alcohol, the alcohol exclusion provision in the insurance policy might impact the claim.
Call (813) 250-0500 to discuss your case today.
Evidence of Drunk Driving in Florida Automobile Negligence Cases
In an automobile negligence case, when the defendant does not admit liability, evidence of the driver’s impairment from drugs or alcohol is generally admissible.
This is powerful evidence to put before the jury at trial. For this reason, the defendant might admit liability regarding the cause of the accident in an effort to make evidence of the defendant’s sobriety irrelevant and prejudicial. Swanson v. Robles, 128 So.3d 915, 917-18 (Fla. 2d DCA 2013).
For instance, in Neering v. Johnson, 390 So.2d 742, 742 (Fla. 4th DCA 1980), the appellate court concluded that the trial court erred in admitting testimony of defendant’s sobriety when “[p]rior to trial the parties entered into a written stipulation by which appellant admitted liability and the parties agreed the sole issue for trial was the damages incurred by appellees.”
The existence of the punitive damage claim does not change the result when the trial court also finds before trial that the driver was liable for punitive damages.
In Swanson, 128 So.3d at 918, the court concluded that when “liability for punitive damages was no longer at issue … [t]here was no reason to admit evidence of [defendant’s] drug use in a bifurcated first phase other than to inflame the jury and increase the compensatory damages verdict.”
Punitive Damages in DUI Crash Cases in Florida
Florida law allows that punitive damages may genearlly be assessed when the act in question was committed with malice, moral turpitude, wattonness, willfulness, outragous aggravation, or in reckless indifference to another person’s legal rights. Zuckeman v. Robinson, 846 So. 2d 1257, 1258 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 2023).
In Ingram v. Pettit, 340 So. 2d 922, 923-24 (Fla 1976), the court confronted the issue of whether a jury should be allowed to consider an award of punitive damages where negligence is coupled with intoxication, and decidedly held that “juries may award punitive dmages were voluntary intoxication is involved in an automative accident in Florida without regard to external proof of carelessness or abnormal driving.”
Moreover, the jury had broad discreation in fixing an amount of punitive damages. Zuckerman at 1260. When the person who caused the accident was voluntarily intoxicated, a jury might find that the reckless and willful conduct on the date of the crash warrants the imposition of punitive damages.
Preserving Evidence in a DUI Crash or Vehicular Homicide Case
Suppose you or a loved one was injured in a crash involving an allegation of drunk or drug-impaired driving. In that case, your personal injury attorney can help you secure important evidence in the first few days and weeks after the crash.
Your attorney or their investigator should go to the crash scene to document physical evidence left at the scene. Your attorney should also interview any witnesses to the accident as soon as possible.
Your attorney can also contact witnesses to secure potential evidence. Your attorney can request that these witnesses preserve all electronic devices, including but not limited to a cell phone, smartphone, tablet, iPad, laptop, or GPS.
Your attorney can take the appropriate actions to make sure the witnesses to the following:
- maintain and preserve the actual electronic devices owned at the time of the collision;
- maintains the cell phone and/or data usage records for the month of the collision;
- preserve all calls, voicemails, text messages, emails, instant messages, social media messages, social media posts, internet searches, GPS data, and any other electronic communication or data for the month of the collision.
It is important to make sure that the witness does not alter, delete, or destroy any of the electronic devices and/or the requested data until the attorney has the opportunity to have it inspected by an expert. The failure of the other party to preserve evidence may be considered spoliation of evidence and could result in penalties assigned by the court.
If the at-fault driver’s insurance company has possession of the evidence, they should also be notified that the evidence must be preserved.
Third Parties Liable for Money Damages after a DUI Crash
After a DUI crash causing personal injury or death, the driver may not have enough insurance to cover the damages. In these cases, a personal injury attorney will also look at any other third party that can be held liable for money damages.
Lawsuits have been brought against the social host at a party where alcohol was served or a bar or restaurant.
When the lawsuit is filed against the bar or restaurant where the drunk driver consumed alcohol before causing the accident, Florida law requires proof of the following elements:
- The bar or restaurant employees served alcohol to a person who became intoxicated;
- The person served was habitually addicted to alcoholic beverages; and
- The bar or restaurant employees served the person knowing that he was habitually addicted to alcoholic beverages.
In Ellis v. N.G.N. of Tampa, Inc., 586 So.2d 1042 (Fla.1991), the Florida Supreme Court held that proof that a bar served an individual a substantial amount of alcohol on multiple occasions would be evidence from which a jury could determine that the bar had sufficient knowledge to have violated section 768.125.
Florida Statute 768.128 – The Dram Shop Statute
In most cases, the ability to sue a third party for the damages caused by a DUI is limited by Florida’s dram shop statute. The Florida legislature has acted to restrict civil liability in these cases.
That limitation of liability under Florida Statute Section 768.125 applies only to those who sell or furnish alcoholic beverages. The only exception to that limitation applies when the alcohol was furnished to someone who was underage or known to be habitually addicted.
Therefore, the courts have held that Florida’s dram shop statute applies to bars and restaurants but not to a valet service. See Weber ex rel. Estate of Weber v. Marino Parking Sys., Inc., 100 So. 3d 729, 731 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 2012) review denied, 123 So. 3d 562 (Fla. 2013).
In the Weber ex rel. Estate of Weber case, the court held that a valet parking service does NOT owe a duty to third parties to refrain from returning car keys to an intoxicated customer.
Florida’s Dram Shop Act alters the common law rule favoring taverns but only for willfully serving a minor or a person known to be habitually addicted.
Florida Statute § 768.125 provides that “a person who willfully and unlawfully sells or furnishes alcoholic beverages to a person who is not of lawful drinking age … may become liable for injury or damage caused by or resulting from the intoxication of such minor.”
The History of Florida’s Dram Shop Act
Historically, under Florida common law, a bar or restaurant that served alcoholic beverages was not liable to anyone injured as a result of the consumption of those alcoholic beverages. See Publix Supermarkets v. Austin, 658 So.2d 1064, 1066 (Fla. 5th DCA 1995).
In Davis v. Shiappacossee, 155 So.2d 365 (Fla.1963), the Florida Supreme Court modified this rule. In Davis, the Court held that “violation of the statute prohibiting the sale of alcohol to minors (see section 562.11) could give rise to civil liability” through a negligence per se theory.
“As a judicial trend developed extending liability towards vendors of alcoholic beverages, the Florida Legislature intervened in 1980 and enacted…” what has become codified in section 768.125. See Publix Supermarkets, 658 So.2d at 1066. Florida’s Dram Shop statute limited the expanded liability of those who provide alcohol. Id. at 1046-1047.
Florida Statute Section 768.125 “codified the original common law rule absolving vendors from liability for sales but provided exceptions for sales to those who were not of a lawful drinking age or to a person habitually addicted to alcoholic beverage use.” Ellis v. N.G.N. of Tampa, Inc., 586 So.2d 1042, 1046 (Fla.1991).
Finding a Personal Injury Attorney after a DUI Crash
Contact the attorneys at the Sammis Law Firm if you suffered injuries after a crash involving an allegation that the at-fault driver was intoxicated by alcoholic beverages or impaired by a chemical or controlled substance.
We can help you understand the process and how to maximize any settlement in the case. Call us to discuss how much your case might be worth.
Whether the charges are DUI with property damage and non-serious bodily injury, DUI with serious bodily injury, DUI manslaughter, or vehicular manslaughter, we can help.
Call today to discuss the case with one of our attorneys.
Call (813) 250-0500.
This article was last updated on Tuesday, February 27, 2024.