Drunk driving has long been one of the most concerning risks on American roadways. In fact, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), reported that nearly 29 people die in alcohol-related auto accidents each day in the U.S. That’s equal to one drunk driving death every 50 minutes, as well as more than 10,000 deaths and many more injuries each year.
While drunk and impaired driving is a risk faced by everyone on the road year-round, it does see an increase during summer months. This is especially true in places like South Florida, where many local residents and tourists celebrate the summer and warm weather with alcoholic beverages, and during summer holidays like Fourth of July, when the numbers of DUI accidents spike nationwide.
With the summer months upon us, our team of West Palm Beach car accident attorneys want to remind our clients and local residents about the importance of avoiding impaired driving. This can be as simple as making plans ahead of time, using a designated driver, calling a taxi or Uber / Lyft, or staying at the location where you’ll be driving.
Unfortunately, our firm is well aware that even drivers who make the decision to never operate their vehicles while under the influence can still suffer serious injuries and losses in auto accidents when others are not as concerned about making the right decisions. When victims are injured in drunk driving wrecks – whether as passengers of another vehicle or as victims of pedestrian, bicycle, or motorcycle accidents – our attorneys leverage our decades of collective experience to ensure their rights are protected.
Anatomy of a Drunk Driving Accident Personal Injury Case
Personal injury cases are civil legal proceedings that arise when victims bring legal action against a party who caused them preventable harm and losses. This can include motorists who drove while under the influence. Although every personal injury case is unique, there are some essential general elements inherent to accident cases – specifically as it relates to proving negligence, fault, and liability. Below, we discuss these elements and what victims need to prove in order to recover the financial compensation they deserve.
- Legal Duty – For any personal injury claim to have merit, there must have existed some legal duty between the defendant and the victim. In the context of car accidents involving negligent drivers, this legal duty exists for all motorists; they have a legal obligation to safely operate their vehicles. As such, they can be held liable when they fail to uphold that duty, and cause injuries as a result.
- Breach of Duty – Proving a legal duty was breached is an essential part of an auto accident case, and it is often accomplished by proving a breach that arises from negligence. Because drunk driving is a negligent act any reasonable motorist knows increases the risks of accidents and places others around them at risk of being injured, it is considered an explicit breach of duty.
- Causation – It is not enough to simply prove another was negligent in failing to uphold their legal obligations; victims must further prove causation. In personal injury cases, the burden for proving this is called a preponderance of the evidence, which generally means “more likely than not.” Victims, therefore, must prove that the other party’s impairment and driving more likely than not resulted in their crash and their subsequent injuries, which can often be demonstrated by showing how their driving conduct, because of their impairment, likely led to the crash, such as when they run a red light or swerve and hit another vehicle, among other examples.
- Damages – Victims must have suffered actual damages in order to have a valid claim, and in the state of Florida must also have suffered some sort of physical contact in order to comply with the state’s “impact rule.” Victims injured in drunk driving accidents usually suffer damages that would entitle them to a financial recovery, because their physical injuries can create damages such as pain and suffering, medical expenses, future needs, and more. Our team puts an emphasis on illustrating the full scope of our clients’ injuries so as to recover the full amount of compensation they deserve.
As we head into summer full swing, we want to remind everyone that drunk driving can come with a devastating cost, and that motorists who do cause injuries while driving under the influence can face civil liability for their actions, in addition to potential criminal charges and penalties that are handled in separate legal proceedings. Regardless of those criminal cases, victims have a right to explore their options and bring personal injury claims or lawsuits against the at-fault driver – and our legal team at Clark, Fountain, La Vista, Prather, Keen & Littky-Rubin is readily available to help.If you would like to learn more about your rights following a drunk driving accident in West Palm Beach or any of the surrounding areas of Florida, do not hesitate to contact us for a free case evaluation.