Car Accidents Caused by Drunk Drivers: What Car Accident Victims Need to Know

March 22, 2024

According to statistics compiled by the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles(FLHSMV), hundreds of Floridians were injured or killed last year in accidents caused by drivers under the influence of either drugs or alcohol

  • There were 218 fatalities and 213 injuries caused by intoxicated drivers statewide in 2023. 
  • Intoxicated drivers killed 9 people and injured 13 others in Palm Beach County in 2023.

These statistics are sobering. Interestingly, the number of accidents caused by intoxication seems to peak each year around April. As we near the end of March, drivers need to know their rights in the event that they or someone they love is injured in an accident caused by a drunk or intoxicated driver. A knowledgeable car accident lawyer can provide further guidance and help you get fair compensation for your injuries. 

Driving While Intoxicated is Negligence

The main issue in most car accident cases is proving that the other driver was negligent in some way and that their negligence caused the accident that resulted in your injuries. A driver is negligent when they fail to drive their vehicle in a reasonably safe and prudent manner so as to avoid foreseeable accidents. Common examples of negligent driving include driving while texting, driving aggressively, or speeding. Proof that the other driver broke the law in some way can be powerful evidence to support a claim for negligence. 

Driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs is illegal. Because alcohol and drugs impair the driver’s perception, judgment, motor skills, and reflexes, some people argue that it is negligence per se to get behind the wheel while impaired. As a result, you almost certainly have a claim for compensation if you were injured in a car accident caused by someone who was driving while impaired. 

You May Have a Case Even if the Other Driver Wasn’t Charged with DUI/DWI

Generally speaking, drivers must have a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08% or higher or have a positive blood test for drugs in order to be charged with DUI. Maybe the driver was under the limit or was not subjected to blood testing. Regardless, evidence of their intoxication can be based on observations made by you or others: 

  • You could smell alcohol on their breath or in their vehicle
  • They stated that they had just left a party or a dinner where it is reasonable to assume they had been drinking
  • Their speech was slurred, incoherent, or unusually loud
  • Their eyes were watery or glassy
  • They were unsteady on their feet or were having other balance issues
  • Their gross or fine motor skills seemed to be impaired
  • They were unresponsive or seemed unable to comprehend the situation

DUI charges must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, while negligence claims are proven by a lower standard. In other words, it may be easier for you to prove that the other driver was intoxicated and therefore negligent than it would be for the police. In addition, evidence of the driver’s impairment may be confirmed by other negligent behaviors prior to the accident such as driving erratically, running a stop sign, or speeding. A car accident attorney will know what evidence you will need to prove your case so that you can get the compensation you deserve. 

Your Personal Injury Claim Is Independent of Any DUI/DWI Charges

Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol is a criminal offense in Florida. As such, the purpose of the DUI case is to punish the driver if they are found guilty. In other words, the DUI case is between the driver and the state of Florida. The driver may be ordered to pay restitution if they are found guilty, but generally speaking, you should not expect to receive any compensation as a result of the DUI case. 

A personal injury case is between the at-fault driver and their victims. The primary purpose of the case is to force the driver to compensate the victim for their medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other losses. It can proceed independently of the criminal proceeding. Your claim may be successful even if the DUI case is dismissed. 

Timing can be important when pursuing a personal injury claim in a drunk driving case. A conviction can be powerful evidence to support your claim for compensation. An experienced car accident attorney can provide guidance as to how to proceed in order to maximize your chances of success. 

What to Do if You Have Been in An Accident Caused by an Intoxicated Driver

The actions you take immediately following your accident can help you build a strong claim. If you have been involved in an accident with a driver who appears to be under the influence, do your best to take the following steps: 

  • Contact the police
  • Inform the officer that you suspect the other driver is under the influence of drugs or alcohol
  • Get the contact information of any witnesses
  • Document the scene of the accident, the damage to the vehicles involved, and any injuries you may have suffered
  • Request an ambulance if you are injured

If you have been in an accident and did not take these steps, do not lose hope – you can still pursue a claim. However, to protect your interests, you need to get in touch with a car accident lawyer as soon as possible. They can take the steps necessary to make sure your rights are protected. 

Call The Grife Law Firm if You Have Been Injured in a Drunk or Drugged Driving Accident

No matter what caused your accident, The Grife Law Firm is here to help you overcome whatever challenges you are facing. We know what it takes to get the compensation you need to make a full recovery. To discuss your case and how we can help, call us today at 561-998-0770 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.