what do I do if I was hit by a drunk driver?

Drunk driving is a serious offense that poses significant risks to everyone on the road. In Florida, the consequences of driving under the influence (DUI) are severe, reflecting the state’s commitment to minimizing alcohol-related crashes. If a drunk driver has hit you, understanding your legal options is crucial. The attorneys at Paul | Knopf | Bigger are here to provide a comprehensive guide on what to do if you’re involved in a drunk driving accident in Florida, focusing on personal injury law and your rights to compensation.

Understanding Drunk Driving and Its Impact

The Dangers of Drunk Driving

Alcohol impairs critical driving abilities, including reaction times, vision, concentration, comprehension, and coordination. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), about 30 people die every day in the United States due to drunk driving. In Florida, drunk driving remains a significant issue, contributing to numerous accidents and fatalities each year.

Florida’s Legal Limits and Penalties

In Florida, the legal Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) limit is .08%. Drivers exceeding this limit can face severe legal consequences, including fines, license suspension, and imprisonment. Repeat offenders and those involved in accidents causing injury or death face even harsher penalties.

Steps to Take After Being Hit by a Drunk Driver

Immediate Actions at the Scene

Call 911

Your immediate priority after a collision should be your safety and health. Call 911 to report the accident and request medical assistance if needed. This ensures that any injuries are promptly treated and documented.

Contact the Police

Reporting the accident to the police is essential, especially if you suspect the other driver is intoxicated. The police will conduct field sobriety tests and gather evidence, including BAC results, which are crucial for criminal and civil proceedings.

Exchange Information

With police assistance, contact and insurance information can be exchanged with the other driver. This should include names, driver’s license numbers, license plate numbers, and insurance details.

Document the Scene

Photograph the accident scene, including vehicle damage, road conditions, traffic signs, and any visible injuries. Collect contact information from witnesses, but avoid interfering with the police investigation.

Medical Attention and Legal Consultation

Seek Medical Attention

Even if you feel fine, seek medical attention as some injuries may not be immediately apparent. Medical records will be vital in linking your injuries to the accident when seeking compensation.

Consult a Lawyer

Given the complexity of DUI accidents, consulting with a personal injury lawyer can help you navigate the legal process. An attorney can assist in evaluating your case, negotiating with insurance companies, and, if necessary, representing you in court.

Given the complexity of DUI accidents, consulting with a personal injury lawyer can help you navigate the legal process. An attorney can assist in evaluating your case, negotiating with insurance companies, and, if necessary, representing you in court.

Legal Options for Victims of Drunk Driving in Florida

Filing a Civil Lawsuit

Proving Fault

To hold a drunk driver liable, you must prove that the driver owed you a duty of care, breached that duty by driving under the influence, and caused the accident resulting in your injuries. This often involves presenting evidence from the police report, witness statements, and medical records.

Seeking Compensation

Victims of drunk driving accidents can seek compensatory damages, which include:

  • Medical Expenses: Costs for immediate and future medical care.
  • Lost Wages: Compensation for time missed from work due to injuries.
  • Property Damage: Costs for repairing or replacing damaged property.
  • Pain and Suffering: Compensation for physical pain and emotional distress.

In some cases, punitive damages may also be awarded to punish the drunk driver for their reckless behavior.

Victim Restitution vs. Civil Damages

Victim Restitution

If the drunk driver is convicted, the court may order them to pay the victim restitution, covering direct financial losses such as medical bills and lost wages. However, restitution does not typically include non-economic damages like pain and suffering.

Civil Damages

Filing a civil lawsuit allows you to pursue a broader range of damages, including non-economic losses and potentially punitive damages. It is possible to seek both victim restitution and civil damages, but you cannot be compensated twice for the same losses.

Special Considerations in Florida

Comparative Fault Rules

Florida follows a comparative fault system, meaning that if you are partially at fault for the accident, your compensation may be reduced by your percentage of fault. For example, if you are found 20% at fault, your damages will be reduced by 20%.

Suing a Drunk Driver’s Passengers and Family Members

Passengers injured by a drunk driver can also seek compensation. However, if the injured passenger is a relative covered under the same insurance policy, they may be unable to file a liability claim against the driver.

Paul | Knopf | Bigger - Florida Injury Attorneys

Taking Action After a DUI Accident

Being hit by a drunk driver is a traumatic experience, but understanding your rights and the steps to take can help you secure the compensation you deserve. In Florida, you have multiple legal avenues to pursue, from victim restitution to civil lawsuits. Consulting with a knowledgeable personal injury lawyer is crucial in navigating these options and achieving the best possible outcome for your case. If you or a loved one has been affected by a drunk driving accident, don’t hesitate to contact Paul | Knopf | Bigger for legal assistance and protect your rights.

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