Drunk drivers frequently cause accidents with injuries. While drunk drivers are usually arrested and prosecuted in criminal court in these cases, this does little to compensate their victims for the damage they have caused. A personal injury lawsuit may be necessary in order for the victims to recover payments for medical bills, lost wages and other expenses associated with a DUI crash.
Civil vs. Criminal Law and Damage Recovery
It is important to keep in mind the distinction between civil and criminal proceedings. Criminal law is designed to punish wrongdoers and keep society safe. It is not designed to compensate victims for their losses. Civil law, on the other hand, is designed to recover compensation for the victim to pay for expenses as well as pain and suffering from the accident.
In order to recover damages in a civil case, the victim must file a lawsuit individually. The state will prosecute the criminal aspects of the case but will not file a lawsuit to recover damages for a victim. A personal injury attorney is often the best person to handle this process.
How Do No-Fault Laws Affect Civil Lawsuits?
Florida’s no-fault law may have a direct impact on a victim’s ability to file a lawsuit against a drunk driver. The first $10,000 of injury damages must be covered by your own personal injury protection or PIP insurance coverage. You may also have MedPay to pay your bills beyond the coverage provided for by PIP. Your insurance company may attempt to collect these payments from the other driver’s insurance company, but in most DUI cases the driver has no insurance or the insurance company attempts to deny the claim.
No-fault law is the subject of debate in cases such as a DUI accident. There is little doubt in these cases that the drunk driver is totally at fault and negligent in causing someone else’s injuries. However, no-fault law demands that the victim’s insurance pay first.
What About Wrongful Death?
In the tragic case in which a drunk driver kills a loved one, a wrongful death lawsuit may be a way to recover enough compensation to provide some financial support for the survivors. Wrongful death lawsuits can cover economic damages such as medical bills, funeral expenses and lost wages, as well as non-economic damages such as loss of consortium or loss of love and affection of the deceased.
While punitive damages are not common in personal injury lawsuits, they are more likely to be awarded in wrongful death lawsuits and are even more likely in cases of drunk driving that causes someone else’s death. Punitive damages are designed to punish a wrongdoer and can be awarded in addition to economic and non-economic damages. For more information on the different types of damages, see our article on understanding personal injury damages.
Others Who May Be Responsible
Although a drunk driver is clearly responsible for damages caused by an accident, there may also be liability on the part of others. For example, if the driver is operating a company vehicle or on company time at the time of the accident, the employer may be liable. In addition, there are some cases in which the individual or the business that provided the alcohol to the driver may be liable. In Florida, this type of liability, known as “dram shop liability,” occurs when the driver is a minor or when the business has a clear knowledge of past alcohol abuse and drunk driving but serves the driver anyway.
A personal injury attorney may be able to help you recover damages including medical expenses, lost wages, loss of earning capacity and compensation for pain and suffering. Contact David & Philpot, PL today for a free, no obligation consultation about your case.