Wrongful Death Caused by Drunk Driving
Every two hours, three people are killed in alcohol-related crashes in the U.S.
Drunk driving consequences stem far beyond property damage, fines and jail time. It results in lives shattered, sometimes lost forever. While most any person will concede drunk driving is dangerous, the U.S. Department of Transportation reports an estimated 4 million adults drive under the influence of alcohol at least once a year. It’s believed there are approximately 112 million alcohol-impaired driving episodes annually. Given this, it’s somewhat astonishing that the yearly DUI death rate isn’t higher than 10,300, which accounts for one-third of all traffic-related fatalities.
Associates and Bruce L. Scheiner, Attorneys for the Injured, hope you and your loved ones are fortunate enough to never encounter an impaired driver on the road. But if you do and are injured or a loved one killed as a result, we will commit our resources to helping you recover compensation. In the event DUI causes a death, our experienced legal team will aggressively pursue damages from not only from the drunk driver, but also those who supplied the alcohol (if offender was underage), the vehicle owner and any others who may have been contributorily negligent.
Many people wrongly assume drunk driving wrongful death cases are “slam-dunks” in civil court, particularly if there has already been a criminal conviction proving the driver’s guilt. But here’s the problem: Defense attorneys and insurance companies spent a lot of money and time defending these cases. Winning takes a skilled legal team with the track record and experience to prevail.
We understand that success in a Fort Myers DUI wrongful death lawsuit will not bring back your loved one. However, it can help you recover the enormous expenses you incurred as a result, including medical bills, lost wages, funeral expenses and loss of future projected income and support due to the loss of life. Additionally, victims of DUI crashes and their survivors are often entitled to punitive damages in Florida. This is important because punitive damages – sometimes referred to as exemplary damages – often far exceed actual losses of the crash. The intention is to punish the drunk driver (and others who contributed) and to serve as a deterrent for future recklessness.DUI Deaths in Florida
According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), an average of 117,000 crashes each year in Florida are attributed to a driver with a blood-alcohol content of 0.08 percent or higher. This is the legal threshold at which a person is deemed intoxicated. It’s worth noting (particularly in a civil case) a driver can be found to have operated a vehicle recklessly even if the blood-alcohol level falls short of that amount – particularly if other substances are in his or her system.
Those wrecks result in more than 1,200 deaths and nearly 50,000 injuries every single year in the Sunshine State. The vast majority of those crashes – 111,500 – involve drivers who have a blood-alcohol content of 0.10 percent or higher.
These alcohol-related accidents cost Florida taxpayers an estimated $11 billion. This includes $4.3 billion in monetary expenses (emergency medical care, property damages, wage losses) and another $6.6 billion in loss of life.
These tragedies forever affect families of survivors. Not only do they cope with the emotional devastation, but a loss like this has the potential to cause a family to be quickly overwhelmed with the financial burden. The Pacific Institute for Research & Evaluation in Maryland reports the average alcohol-related in Florida costs $5.2 million, including $1.7 million in monetary losses and $3.5 million in quality of life losses. Even those who survive incur $73,000 in monetary costs and more than $80,000 in quality of life losses.
These are not burdens survivors should have to bear. We recognize no amount of money is going to “fix” the situation or make survivors completely whole. Our goal, though, is to secure financial stability for you and your family, and to hold drunk drivers and enablers accountable.Legal Approaches to DUI Wrongful Death Cases
The first target we will seek is the driver and his insurance company. In a fair number of DUI death cases, insurance companies will simply tender the policy limit amounts. Unfortunately, far too many drunk drivers carry only minimal insurance. Many have prior records that make auto insurance extremely expensive, so they stay covered with the bare minimum. That assumes they carry any insurance at all.
Problematically for victims and their families, that does not even begin to cover the costs.
If the insurer refuses to pay an obviously legitimate claim, we will explore the pursuit of a bad faith insurance claim, which can net additional damages. We will also look into whether it is worthwhile to sue the driver personally. If he or she has enough assets and/or stable income, this could be an option worth exploring.
However, in the event the driver has minimal/no insurance and few assets, we would look into filing an uninsured/underinsured motorist (UM) claim. This is money paid from your/decedent’s auto insurance policy. Most Florida (and their resident relatives) are covered with UM insurance, unless they expressly opted out of it at the time they signed up for coverage.
Another option we will explore is vehicle owner vicarious liability, if the owner of the vehicle is someone different than the driver. Florida is unique in recognizing motor vehicles as a dangerous instrumentality, considered inherently dangerous. Therefore, so long as the drunk driver was operating with permission (express or implied) from the vehicle owner, the latter could be found liable.
Finally, we will look into whether dram shop laws may be applicable. Per F.S. 768.125, a person who sells or furnishes alcohol to a person who is underage or known to be habitually addicted to alcohol can be held liable for injury or damage caused by or resulting from intoxication of that person. This is the basis on which families of drunk driver victims can pursue litigation against a private homeowner or bar where the driver consumed alcohol just prior to the crash. Such claims are typically paid through homeowners’ insurance or the business’s commercial liability policy.
Contact Associates and Bruce L. Scheiner, Attorneys for the Injured, for a free and confidential consultation to discuss your rights. There are no fees or costs unless we win. Offices in Fort Myers, Cape Coral, Naples and Port Charlotte.
Call 800-646-1210 for a Free Consultation