When a person becomes injured or worse, is killed as a result of a drunk driver there are certain legal steps experienced Personal Injury lawyers want victims or in the event of a wrongful death, surviving family members to be familiar with. After catastrophic injury or death, it’s important to take every step in the legal process seriously. This will ensure the ability to recover the maximum amount of compensation.
This financial compensation may account for pain and suffering; pain and suffering often includes damages awarded alongside compensation for a death or lifelong impairment. Continue to reading to gain further insight into what happens, legally, after a drunk driving related car accident.
The legal side of loss
While no amount of money can ever replace the life of a beloved family member or turn back the hands of time to allow the accident to have never occurred, financial compensation does provide a measure of stability and may be able to mitigate the cost. Compensation awarded may assist in easing the burden of final expenses: funeral expenses and medical bills. Damages awarded alongside compensation may be able to cover lost wages that the deceased would have earned over the course of their life. This compensation (and any further awarded damages) provides for the lives of their loved ones left behind.
This is why, after a car accident involving a drunk driver, retaining an experienced accident lawyer to represent the victim and their family with pursuing litigation in order to obtain compensation should not be overlooked. Dealing with grief is difficult and retaining a lawyer is something families may put off during mourning; this is understandable. However, a compassionate lawyer with experience in wrongful death cases will not cause the family any further anguish, as their experience will allow them to move the case forward successfully.
Drunk driving accidents cause more harm to victims than the intoxicated driver
The legal consequences that surround drunk driving accidents and the injuries (as well as wrongful deaths) that they cause can range from large fines and suspended licenses to serious prison time–each case is unique and should be handled by a lawyer who has taken hundreds of these cases to trial and won. Drunk driving accidents often cause the most harm to any passengers in the vehicle and other motorists on the road then they do to the drunk driver. This is because it is scientifically proven that the alcohol coursing through an intoxicated driver’s system prevents the body from becoming rigid during a collision, preventing them from sustaining many common injuries that occur during a motor vehicle crash such as TBI or Spinal Cord Injury.
Probable Cause in Personal Injury
It’s important to know that while we will not delve into the criminal aspect of drunk driving within this particular writeup as we are focused on the importance of the Personal Injury perspective, based on the results of what’s known as a BAC test (a Blood Alcohol Concentration test), the principle of “probable cause” on the legal side does come into play.
Probable Cause is easily defined, and should be well understood when one becomes the victim of an alcohol-related car accident; especially in Florida. Probable Cause means an officer cannot arrest a driver without reasonable suspicion to first administer the standard Blood Alcohol Concentration test. After this, if the results conclude that the driver in intoxicated (or has exceeded the legal amount of alcohol in their system with which they are allowed to operate a car), then, probable cause is then given to the police to make an arrest. This Probable Cause would then be based on the motorist driving under the influence. At this point, they can then be charged with a DUI and taken to jail.
As we explained in-depth in 2018’s Civil Liability in DUI Driving Accident Cases: A Personal Injury Point of View: Probable Cause does not directly concern the area of Personal Injury Law as there is a criminal aspect to such litigation, however the principle itself (the arrest of a motorist who caused serious bodily harm or even the death of a passenger in their vehicle, or of another motorist, or pedestrian due to their reckless behavior), can be indispensable when the injured victim or their family retains legal representation.
A Board Certified lawyer will certainly take the time during the Discovery phase of the case to find out whether Probable Cause was a factor (and that lawyer will know exactly what to do with the information they uncover). Remember, when discussing a case with a Personal Injury lawyer, they will want the “book of your life”. This means leaving no detail out, no matter how small or irrelevant the client may think it is. This also means don’t exaggerate, don’t lie, and don’t embellish the accident just to “impress” the lawyer. An experience Personal Injury lawyer wants the truth and to represent a credible client. Anything less than that will kill the case!
The legality of BAC testing in Florida, and elsewhere
When it comes to pursuing litigation on behalf of an injured victim or a victim who passed away as the result of a drunk driver’s reckless, careless behavior on the road, the question of the Blood Alcohol Level of the driver behind the wheel, thusly responsible for the accident, will come into play. While this is also a criminal (“defendant”) aspect that must be dealt with, it will certainly play a part in the Discovery phase of Personal Injury litigation on behalf of the injured party (the “plaintiff”).
To refresh, Discovery in litigation simply means:
“[…]The entire efforts of a party to a lawsuit and his/her/its attorneys to obtain information before trial through demands for production of documents, depositions of parties and potential witnesses, written interrogatories (questions and answers written under oath), written requests for admissions of fact, examination of the scene and the petitions and motions employed to enforce discovery rights.”
There are two types of Blood Alcohol Testing:
- Mandatory BAC: some states require any motorist or passenger who dies as a result of a drunk driving-related accident to have a BAC. According to government websites providing this information, only half the states in the country have this requirement.
- Discretionary BAC: Many states have what’s known as “discretionary” Blood Alcohol Concentration testing. This leaves the testing decision up to the medical examiner or other state official overseeing the case.
It’s important that victims, their loved ones, and their Board Certified Personal Injury lawyer involved in drunk driving accident litigation have thoroughly researched the laws surrounding Blood Alcohol Testing in the state the accident occurred. Without strong legal representation, a victim and their family may not be provided the kind of justice they deserve. As frequently mentioned here on The Law Resource, a “paper pusher” lawyer should never be retained to represent a victim and their family after an accident. These lawyers do whatever they can to push clients out the door, and the outcome of their cases are not successful ones.
When it comes to legal experience, knowing state-specific laws should also be considered when selecting the right lawyer for a drunk driving accident claim. As each state has different–or no laws regarding BAC testing at all–it’s also important that accident victims seek experienced legal advice from a trusted and reputable lawyer who has not only “seen” several hundred alcohol-related cases, but has taken them to trial, gone in the trenches from start to finish, and won.
As The Law Resource is based in South Florida, we can share that the state of Florida does not have specific BAC laws, and thus it is a state that leaves any testing requirements up to law enforcement and state officials who are placed in charge of the case. However, as we previously mentioned, if an officer on the scene of an accident has reasonable suspicion that a driver is impaired and/or under the influence of alcohol or any other illicit substance, they may use their professional discretion to require the driver to submit to a BAC and the resulting information will inform whether or not they are arrested and taken to jail.
If we make the decision to ignore a situation in which someone we’re with and care for drinks and drives because they insist they are “OK to drive”, we, ourselves, could become liable (responsible) for an accident that occurs if they end up behind the wheel of a car, motorcycle, or boat. If the driver causes someone else on the road to sustain bodily injury or is the cause of a fatality to another motorist, pedestrian, or passengers in their car the laws involving these types of cases this are clearly laid out by state––and the consequences are severe.
Please refrain from getting behind the wheel after consuming even one drink. It’s not worth your life or the life of anyone on the road. When a designated driver cannot be relied upon, always use Uber, Lyft, or a taxi service to get home safely.