Drunk Driving Accidents
Drunk driving is a scourge in this country, killing more than 10,000 people a year and injuring many tens of thousands of innocent motorists. It’s a top cause of serious and fatal crashes, accounting for one-third of the total nationally. Add to the mix drug-impaired drivers – including those under the influence of illicit, prescription and over-the-counter medication – and the scope of the problem grows even more serious.
No one in Bonita Springs is immune. Peruse headlines from the last few years, and you’ll find numerous victims:
- A roadside worker in parked car on a grass shoulder, struck and killed by an alleged drunk driver who lost control while traveling down U.S. 41 near Lime Tree Park Drive.
- A young man killed and another critically injured when a drunk driver in a pickup blew through a red light and slammed into the car on U.S. 41.
- A Bonita Springs family of four, each seriously injured when a drunk driver barreled into the picnic table where they had just sat down for a meal.
Vulnerable road users like bicyclists and pedestrians are most at risk, but any motorist at the wrong place at the wrong time could find themselves the victim of a drunk driver’s recklessness.
Bonita Springs drunk driving accident attorneys at Associates and Bruce L. Scheiner, Attorneys for the Injured, are committed to fighting on behalf of DUI accident victims for both financial compensation and justice.
FLHSMV reports that of a total of 159 crashes in Bonita Spring in a single recent year, 36 (or about 22 percent) were alcohol-related. That’s lower than the national average, but a concerning figure nonetheless.
Uniform Traffic Citation Statistics from the State of Florida show Lee County Sheriff’s Office (responsible for policing services in Bonita Springs) made 1,227 DUI arrests in a single recent year. Countywide, 2,250 DUI arrests were made that same year. Less than 60 percent were adjudicated guilty.
Our injury law team recognizes that from a legal standpoint, drunk driving crashes are unique compared to other types of Southwest Florida car accidents. We have a long track record of success in helping our clients navigate through this physically, emotionally and financially difficult time.
Although driver-impaired crashes are commonly referred to as, “accidents,” the truth of the matter is they don’t meet that definition. Webster’s Dictionary defines “accident” as an unforeseen or unplanned event occurrence that lacks intent. While it’s certainly true that most drunk drivers don’t intend to get into a crash or hurt anyone, the reality is every driver knows it’s a possibility– perhaps even a probability – when they get behind the wheel of a vehicle while intoxicated.
For this reason, our Bonita Springs injury lawyers formally refer to these incidents as “crashes,” not “accidents.” It’s also why Florida courts expressly allow victims of DUI accidents to pursue punitive damages (F.S. 768.72) – intended to punish the defendant – as opposed to restricting them to compensatory damages, intended solely to compensate victims for what they have lost. This can entitle plaintiff to as much as three times their actual damages. An experienced attorney who can make a strong case for punitive damages on your behalf is imperative.Insurance Claims for DUI Injury
The question of punitive damages in DUI crash cases is often one that is raised much later in the process. Before we get to that, we’ll be looking to identify all possible defendants and avenues of recovery, which more than likely are going to be auto insurers.
Those who are convicted of DUI are required to obtain either SR-22 insurance or FR-44 insurance coverage for high risk drivers, per F.S. 324.023. This means convicted DUI offenders must pay a whole lot more for auto insurance liability coverage if they are in another crash. With FR-44, for example, instead of minimum limits of 10/20/10 ($10,000 per person and $20,000 per accident for bodily injury liability and $10,000 property damage coverage), those with FR-44 must insure themselves for 100/300/50. Those convicted of DUI are required to maintain that coverage for at least three years before they can purchase a policy without it. If they don’t, they will either not have their license re-instated or have their license suspended.
Unfortunately, the high cost of these well-deserved rates mean that a lot of DUI offenders try to skate by without it, which is bad news because they are some of the most likely to be drinking and driving again. That’s why it’s a good idea for all motorists to have adequate amounts of uninsured/ underinsured motorist coverage (F.S. 627.727) on their own policies. This insurance will kick in and cover you if the drunk driver doesn’t have insurance (likely to be the case if they’re driving under suspension) or lacks enough insurance to fully cover your damages. This is in addition to what you are entitled to recover through your own insurer for personal injury protection (PIP) per F.S. 627.736, which is a maximum $10,000, depending on the circumstances.
Lastly, we can’t overlook the possibility that you may have a case for a dram shop claim. Florida has a somewhat limited dram shop law compared to other states in that you cannot sue a bar or restaurant or social host that served the drunk driver alcohol while he/she was visibly intoxicated. Instead, F.S. 768.125 only allows for compensation from these entities if the drunk driver was:
- Under the age of 21;
- Known by defendant to be an alcoholic.
Those are very limited circumstances, but certainly worth pursuing where they apply. Bonita Springs DUI accident victims can trust our injury lawyers to examine all potential avenues of recovering damages for their injuries.
If you or someone you care about has been hurt, contact the Bonita Springs drunk driving injury lawyers at Associates and Bruce L. Scheiner, Attorneys for the Injured. You pay us no fees unless we win.