Drunk drivers face heavy fines, driver’s license suspension and potential jail time when they injure others. Unfortunately, these penalties don’t do much to help the victims. Monetary compensation for victims is not the main goal of the criminal justice system. If you or a family member suffers harm at the hands of a drunk driver, you must pursue a personal injury lawsuit in civil court to win the damages you deserve.
Insurance is the starting point for injured people seeking compensation after any auto accident, including a DUI-related crash. The injured person first collects from their personal injury protection (PIP) coverage, which provides up to $10,000. When more than $10,000 is required, the victim can pursue damages from the drunk driver or anyone else who may bear responsibility.
There are several grounds on which a DUI accident victim can base a personal injury lawsuit:
- Negligence per se — A person is presumed to be negligent when they violate a statute and cause an injury. Since drunk driving violates Florida law, the victim can argue that the driver was negligent per se and should be found liable for damages. The statutory violation doesn’t guarantee a win, but it is strong evidence.
- Vicarious liability — If the drunk driver borrowed someone else’s car and was driving it at the time of the crash, Florida law allows an injured victim to sue the car’s owner. The doctrine of vicarious liability allows a crash victim to hold a vehicle owner responsible for the negligence of anyone who operates their vehicle with their consent.
- Negligent entrustment — This ground of liability applies in some situations where the drunk driver was driving someone else’s car. The owner could be considered negligent if he or she knew or should have known that the person they let borrow the car had a history of reckless driving, drunk driving or other serious traffic offenses.
- Dram shop liability — Under Florida’s dram shop law, a commercial establishment can be liable for willfully providing alcohol to someone under 21 or to someone known to be “habitually addicted” to alcohol, if that person then drives and injures someone. This law applies only to businesses who sell alcohol. If the drunk driver was served at someone’s home, you cannot sue the homeowner for your injuries.
You will want to speak with a seasoned Florida DUI accident lawyer to determine which of these legal theories might apply to your situation.
Largey Law Firm has extensive experience handling personal injury and wrongful death cases for victims of drunk driving accidents. We are always ready to meet with you and explain how we can help. Please contact us online to schedule a free attorney consultation at our offices in Inverness, Clermont or Tavares.