Jacksonville Drunk Driving Accident Lawyer
Drunk driving accidents happen in a split second but may have life-altering consequences—all because a criminally irresponsible person got behind the wheel.
Now your body and car are wrecked. Maybe you can’t work because of the injuries—but legally, you’re still responsible for the hospital, physical therapy, and mechanics bills.
You shouldn’t have to pay for what someone else did to you—especially if that person chose to drive drunk.
If an impaired driver injured you in an accident, contact The Law Offices of Jared Spingarn today to discuss your legal options. No matter what time it is, you can call us, because we know that drunk drivers injure people at all hours of the day. Our Jacksonville drunk driving accident lawyers are ready to help you right now.
How Does the Law Define Drunk Driving?
We have all heard the statistics. About one out of every three traffic deaths is the result of drunk driving. Someone dies every 50 minutes because of impaired driving. In one recent year, 4,510 alcohol-related crashes took place in Florida, 242 of these in the Jacksonville area. Many of these crashes involve repeat offenders.
Despite these terrible statistics, people continue to drink and drive, frequently resulting in heartbreaking, preventable severe injuries or fatalities.
People often refer to drunk driving using the terms DUI and DWI. DUI means driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and DWI means driving while intoxicated. The terms are usually used interchangeably, but in Florida, the official term is DUI.
The Florida Uniform Crime Reports defines driving under the influence as “driving or operating a motor vehicle while impaired by alcoholic liquor or a drug/narcotic.”
Drunk driving accidents are a little different from other car accidents because drunk driving is against the law. Therefore, if the state is pressing criminal charges against the driver, you do not receive damages through the criminal case. People often think that the legal system cannot convict them of a DUI if they are not driving the car at the time of the arrest.
For example, if a person is asleep in a parked car and the engine is not on, is that a DUI offense? The person driving under the influence is driving or in actual physical control of a motor vehicle. Being in actual physical control means they must be physically in (or on) the vehicle and possess the ability to immediately drive the car, regardless of whether they are actually driving the car at the time. Physical control is an issue of fact for the judge or jury to decide.
According to Florida law, if a driver’s blood-alcohol level is 0.08 percent or higher, or if the driver’s faculties are impaired, then they may be charged with driving under the influence (DUI). This is true whether alcohol, illicit drugs, or even prescription drugs impaired the driver’s faculties. The blood alcohol limit is lower for underage drivers (0.02 percent) and drivers of commercial vehicles (0.04 percent).
Florida’s law takes drunk driving very seriously, and the penalties are tough. The penalties range widely but may include imprisonment, administrative penalties such as license suspension, large fines, and court fees. A first DUI offense in Florida will result in a fine of not less than $500 and not more than $2,000. The range for the fine increases from $2,000 to $4,000 when the driver’s blood alcohol content is 0.15 percent or more. Someone convicted of a first DUI must also serve 50 hours of community service or pay an additional fine of $10 for each hour of community service ordered by the court. Subsequent DUI convictions result in increasingly harsh penalties.
Other Consequences of a DUI Conviction
A DUI conviction can have serious implications on a defendant’s income, social life, and eligibility for schooling and prospects. In some cases, the offender may cannot obtain a security clearance due to prior criminal history, necessary for some jobs or educational opportunities. Company policy may state that they do not hire applicants with prior history of drug or alcohol offenses. Having a DUI on a person’s record can lead to higher insurance premiums for car insurance and possibly ineligibility for some types of life insurance. A driver’s license suspension may mean that the offender can’t drive to school, their job, or fulfill other obligations.
Someone driving under the influence can face criminal charges, even in the absence of an injury or accident. A civil lawsuit is a separate process from any criminal proceedings a drunk driver may face. The injured victim may bring a civil lawsuit against the drunk driver. This is true regardless of the outcome of the criminal case and charges. The injured person, or in the case of a fatality, the victim’s next of kin, can file a personal injury lawsuit to recover damages for their losses.
Florida is a no-fault state, which means that a driver must first turn to their own personal injury protection (PIP) coverage to receive compensation for their losses resulting from a car accident. This rule applies no matter who is at fault and whether or not the driver was driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Typically, this amount is not sufficient to cover the amount of the losses. However, if your injuries fall within the Florida definition of “serious injuries,” you could pursue a lawsuit against the drunk driver. The Law Offices of Jared Spingarn are here to help.
To win a personal injury claim, you must first prove that the other party is negligent.
Who May Be Liable for a Jacksonville Drunk Driving Accident?
The obvious person who is at fault in these accidents is the drunk driver. However, there may be more than one party liable. In limited circumstances, a third party may be liable for the injuries. For example, in some circumstances, you can hold responsible a vendor who knowingly and willfully sold or furnished alcoholic beverages to
- a) a customer below the legal drinking age; or
- b) a customer who is “habitually addicted” to alcohol.
Social hosts may also be liable in limited circumstances. Other possible liable entities might include the driver’s employer if the driver was acting in the course of their job duties at the time of the accident. Rideshare drivers are generally independent contractors, not employees, but you may still recover damages from the rideshare company’s insurance policy.
Common Injuries in Jacksonville Drunk Driving Accidents
Car accidents are so dangerous that there is a 1 in 114 chance that an individual will be seriously injured. Naturally, the odds are even greater in alcohol-related incidents.
Every crash is unique, but common injuries suffered in an accident include:
- Back, neck, and spinal cord injuries: Approximately 36 percent of spinal cord injuries result from car crashes. These are one of the most common injuries caused by drunk driving. The spine is delicate and frequently damaged by the impact of a car crash. Victims may be severely injured and often paralyzed.
- Traumatic brain injuries and head injuries: A traumatic brain injury (TBI) is different in every accident, depending on what part of the brain is injured and how severely. TBI can cause seizures, as well as problems with speech, language, thinking, and behavior. Head injuries may also include skull fractures or lacerations.
- Internal organ damage: The force of impact may damage internal organs such as the heart, lungs, kidney, and liver. Obvious symptoms may not show, and even after diagnosis, the injuries are serious and difficult to treat.
- Joint damage: The violent force of the crash can cause joint inflammation.
- Burns and road rash: Car accident victims frequently suffer cuts, burns, and road rash. If the victim’s body comes into contact with any heated element of the vehicle or if the crash causes a fire, the victim can also suffer severe burns. If the crash throws the victim from a car or a motorcycle, their skin may scrape across the pavement, resulting in road rash. Severe burns may leave the victim disfigured.
- Broken bones: Even a simple broken bone can limit the victim’s mobility and restrict their activities. Complex breaks may require surgery and physical therapy.
- Cuts and bruises
Compensation for Jacksonville Drunk Driving Accident Injuries
In addition to compensation from a civil lawsuit, there may be other sources of financial assistance. Because a criminal act harmed the person injured by a drunk driver, they may also seek restitution through Florida’s Crimes Compensation Act for losses sustained in such a crash.
Calculating damages is an important element of a drunk driving accident case. Some damages might require expert testimony from professionals, such as physicians, economists, or actuaries. Each case is different, but compensation generally consists of economic damages and non-economic damages along with any punitive damages that the court may order.
Economic damages can include:
- Medical bills: This includes current bills, such as emergency care, ongoing doctor’s bills, hospital stays, surgery, medications, physical therapy, in-home care, and future medical costs.
- Loss of wages. Many injuries lead to long-term limitations, so you may be unable to return to work or continue in your present career.
- Property damage: If the accident damaged your vehicle or any other property, you could seek compensation for repair or replacement.
Non-economic damages can include:
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress. Car accident victims frequently suffer from psychological or emotional distress, such as anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
- Diminished quality of life. After an accident, the victim may be unable to participate in their preferred activities.
- Loss of consortium
Punitive damages: Florida courts will only award punitive damages in cases of intentional misconduct or gross negligence. They accompany an award of compensatory damages, but Florida law limits them.
Evidence Supporting a Case Against a Drunk Driver
It helps to prove that the driver was impaired. Evidence might include reports from police or witnesses that the person was driving erratically, field sobriety tests, evidence of an elevated BAC, slurred speech, and an odor of alcohol. Even if you cannot prove intoxication, you can still recover compensation if you can prove the driver committed other negligent acts.
What to Do if a Drunk Driver Hits You in Jacksonville
- Seek medical treatment for your injuries. Even if you do not think you were injured or that your injuries are minor, seek immediate medical treatment. Sometimes symptoms of an injury do not show up right away. Also, after an accident, the body releases adrenaline, which acts as a pain suppressant. Records of your medical treatment can help support your claim for damages if you file a lawsuit.
- Call the police to report the accident. After an accident, remain at the scene and call 911 without delay. If the other driver has been drinking, he or she may try to convince you not to call the police. The driver may offer to pay for any damages or promise almost anything to avoid a DUI charge. You may feel sorry for the driver, but remember that if he or she is intoxicated, they may forget their promises or avoid payment once they sober up. Also, at that point, you probably do not know the full extent of your losses. When the police arrive, answer their questions simply and honestly. Avoid apologizing or admitting fault, which people often do in the aftermath of an accident.
- Look for evidence to confirm your suspicions that alcohol played a role. If possible, take pictures of the accident scene, your car, the other driver’s vehicle, and any visible open bottles and cans you see in the other vehicle. Also, take pictures or videos of the accident scene, skid marks, debris, and any traffic signs and signals in the area. Nearby buildings may have video cameras that recorded the accident. Note whether the other driver is slurring his or her words, staggering, unable to maintain balance, or exhibits any other signs of intoxication. However, if the other driver appears aggressive in any way, always protect yourself and your passengers.
- Get contact information from eyewitnesses. Try to get contact information from any witnesses. They may be able to testify that the driver was weaving or exhibiting any other signs of intoxication. Gather this information at the scene, if possible, because witnesses may be difficult to locate later. However, if they are unwilling to cooperate, do not force the issue.
- Consult our Jacksonville drunk driving accident attorneys. Insurance representatives often make a quick settlement offer, so they can pay as little as possible. Before you talk to an insurance adjuster or accept an insurance settlement offer, be sure to get legal help from a car accident attorney like those at The Law Offices of Jared Spingarn. Be sure to discuss any settlement offer with your lawyer before you sign anything. Your lawyer can protect your rights and help ensure that you receive a full and fair settlement through negotiation or in court.
Hire Jared Spingarn to Pursue Your Jacksonville Drunk Driving Accident Claim
The Florida statute of limitations for personal injury, including a drunk driving accident, is four years from the date of the accident. If you miss this deadline, you cannot file a lawsuit. Therefore, consult a dedicated, compassionate Jacksonville drunk driving accident lawyer with a good track record. The Law Offices of Jared Spingarn are here to help. For more information or to arrange a free consultation, call 1-866-HIRE-JARED or contact us online.
“What a great team. Took care of my accident case and got me a very great settlement. Thank you so much to the team for their great efforts and always being transparent with all the information they provided. Highly recommend they will take care of you like family.”
5011 Gate Parkway, Building 100, Suite 100
Jacksonville, FL 32256