What is Civil Liability in a Florida Drunk Driving Accident?
Civil liability doesn’t always come to mind the moment of a drunk driving accident. When injury results, the reckless driver responsible for the accident may be arrested on the scene. The outcome of a Florida drunk driving accident differs in every case. The truth is, civil liability is one of the most common actions against a reckless driver after charging them with a DUI with injury.
It’s important to be aware of those around us and how much alcohol friends and family are consuming. If someone we love consumes alcohol, it’s important to withhold their keys and get them home safely. This can be by using Uber or Lyft, or finding a sober friend to drive them home. Sometime,s we choose to ignore a scenario in which someone in our party drinks and drives, claiming they’re “OK to drive”. Doing this may place serious liability upon us.
Any establishment providing alcohol could become liable for any accident resulting from intoxication after leaving the bar. These are “dram shop laws”, and as a result, consequences for violating them are severe.
What is “civil liability”?
Personal Injury law, is a form of civil law. This means, a Personal Injury lawyer is there for the client, and does not generally pursue criminal charges against a reckless or negligent individual. Thus, it’s important that during a DUI with injury case, the victim has a Personal Injury lawyer fighting for them. This necessity holds true even if criminal charges are pending against a negligent or reckless party.
The definition of “civil liability” is as follows:
“[…]A legal obligation that arises to a private party, usually for payment of damages or other court-enforcement of a lawsuit.“Cornell Legal Information Institute
What happens after a Florida drunk driving accident?
First of all, when someone sustains an injury or wrongful death results from a Florida drunk driving accident, families have the right to recover compensation. While no amount of money can replace a life lost, as with any wrongful death, compensation provides assistance in easing any financial burdens. As a result of wrongful death, final expenses, medical bills, and lost wages often ensue.
Retaining a lawyer with Board Certification to assist pursing litigation in the form of civil liability is extremely important.
What are the consequences of drunk driving beyond civil liability?
Legal issues that surround DUI-related accidents and wrongful deaths can range from large fines and suspended licenses to serious prison time. Drunk driving accidents often cause more harm to the passengers in the vehicle and other motorists on the road than they do to the driver.
This article touches on drunk driving in respect to civil liability. Due to this, we will not go in depth about many criminal aspects of drunk driving. However, there will always be grave consequences when someone chooses to drink and drive. This is especially applicable when a driver is above the legal blood alcohol limit. Conducting Blood Alcohol Testing is a decision officers at the scene of the accident make upon arrival. Thus, testing is only applicable if police have reasonable suspicion that the driver is drunk or is acting erratically.
How does reasonable suspicion factor into civil liability in Florida drunk driving accidents?
When a law is broken this is what’s referred to by Personal Injury lawyers as “reasonable suspicion”. Reasonable suspicion applies in the event that law enforcement is able to smell alcohol on a driver. Using reasonable suspicion, officers are allowed to apply “reasonable force” on the driver should they refuse to submit to a Blood Alcohol Concentration test.
Force is never a first line option for law enforcement and the driver is always given a chance to “reasonably” consent.
Next, we’ll go more in-depth about BAC testing.
What is Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) testing?
In certain states law enforcement may require a motorist to submit to a BAC–or a Blood Alcohol Concentration test. However, this varies greatly from state-to-state. In the state of Florida there are no laws specific to BAC testing. Therefore, it remains at law enforcement’s discretion whether or not to test the impaired motorist on the scene. There are two types of Blood Alcohol Concentration testing that can be issued by law enforcement:
- Mandatory BAC: some states require any driver who dies as a result of drunk driving to have a BAC. According to government websites providing this information, only half the states in the country have this requirement during autopsy.
- Discretionary BAC: Many states use “discretionary” Blood Alcohol Concentration testing. This leaves the testing decision up to the medical examiner or other state official overseeing the case.
What is probable cause?
Following the results of the BAC test, “probable cause” comes into play. An officer cannot arrest a driver without reasonable suspicion to first administer a BAC test. If the smell of alcohol is present, or the driver is acting erratically during questioning, probable cause exists. Then, if the results report clear intoxication, there is sufficient evidence to make an arrest. At this point, police may proceed to charge the driver with DUI and other severe consequences.
Probable cause does not inherently concern the area of Personal Injury. However, the arrest of a driver who causes serious bodily injury or wrongful death of a passenger can be indispensable when the victim or their family attempts to recover compensation.
Does Florida have specific BAC laws?
The state of Florida does not have specific BAC laws. Therefore, it’s a state that leaves the testing requirements up to police and state officials overseeing the case.
How do Personal Injury lawyers prove fault in Florida drunk driving accident cases?
In conclusion, here’s a quick checklist of what lawyers may need when filing civil liability action in cases of drunk driving:
To prove fault in a drunk driving accident:
- Was the driver showing signs of impairment?
- Did the driver’s BAC indicate they were under the influence? Is there confirmation of BAC above the legal limit?
- What was the intoxication level of the driver?
- Was the driver acting in a manner that’s unreasonable or negligent? Did they put the public at risk?
Finally, what do drunk driving accident victims need to pursue litigation after a DUI with injury? A short list:
- Police reports
- Witness statements
- BAC testing results
- An expert opinion’s testimony