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Who Is Liable for Injuries in a Drunk Driving Accident?

Driving after you have had one or two drinks may not seem like a big deal, but getting behind the wheel while under the influence can have devastating impacts on a person’s life. Drunk driving statistics show that in the state of Florida, the rate of alcohol-related car accidents is slightly higher than the national average. 

If you or a loved one has been a victim of a drunk driving accident, you may be left with irreparable physical and emotional damage. Your immediate reaction is probably to seek justice for your accident, but where do you even begin? The first step is finding out who is liable for your injuries, which could include the driver, the person who served them, or even the liquor store that sold them the alcohol. 

Who Is Held Liable?

Oftentimes, people assume that the only person that can be held responsible for a drunk driving accident is the impaired driver. However, this isn’t always the case. In the state of Florida, there are a few third parties that could potentially be held liable for a drunk driving accident. 

The way that civil liability for drunk driving accidents is determined is similar to that of another type of car accident, meaning the liability is assigned by considering whose negligence caused the accident. “Negligence” in this context refers to a failure to exercise the level of care that a person of ordinary prudence would have been expected to act with under similar circumstances.

In order to prove negligence in a drunk driving accident, the following elements must be present:

  • The negligent party owed a duty of care to the injured person
  • That duty was breached 
  • The breach of duty caused the injury at issue
  • The injured person suffered compensable damages

Under what is known as a “dram shop” law, the victim or the family of a victim may pursue damages against a third party, such as the business that served the alcohol to the impaired driver. However, not all third-party vendors can be held liable. For example, in the state of Florida, a bar or restaurant isn’t specifically prohibited from selling alcohol to an already intoxicated person. The law only states that they are held liable when they have served to a person who is under the legal drinking age of 21 or who is known to be habitually addicted to alcohol. The same rules apply to liquor stores. 

In the case of a private social gathering, the liability cannot be placed on the host. The host may not be held responsible for serving alcohol to an already intoxicated person, or even a person who is known to be habitually addicted to alcohol. However, he or she may face criminal penalties or other sanctions for providing alcohol to a minor. 

If you are unsure of the next steps to take in your drunk driving accident case, talking to an experienced personal injury attorney is critical. A highly-qualified attorney will be able to help determine who is liable and what types of damages you are able to recover. 

I Got Hit by a Drunk Driver. What Am I Entitled To? 

When you or someone you love has been injured as a result of someone carelessly getting behind the wheel while intoxicated, you have a right to compensation for your damages. Dram shop cases are civil cases, meaning that they are filed by the injured person directly, with liability being expressed solely in terms of money damages. In a personal injury case, the civil court will allow two different types of damages—compensatory or punitive. 

Compensatory Damages in a Drunk Driving Accident

Compensatory damages are meant to compensate the victim for a particular loss, detriment, or injury. More specifically, these damages are meant to replace what was lost. 

The following are types of compensatory damages:

  • Medical expenses
  • Lost wages
  • Loss of earning capacity
  • Pain and suffering

Punitive Damages in a Drunk Driving Accident

Another type of damages that a victim or the victim’s family may be entitled to are punitive damages. These are intended to punish a defendant for his conduct and serve as a deterrent to future acts. According to Florida Statute 768.72, in order to recover punitive damages, the victim must establish reasonable grounds. However, even if there is a reasonable foundation for these types of damages, a jury may not always award them. 

If a judge allows punitive damages, the jury is given a set of instructions that help assess the conduct and determine whether or not these types of damages are justifiable. 

These instructions, as outlined by the Florida Supreme Court, are as follows:

  • The conduct of the defendant was flagrant and gross, showing a complete disregard for human life or the safety of those exposed to it.
  • The defendant’s conduct showed an entire lack of care or indifference toward the consequences of the actions.
  • The defendant expressed an entire lack of care that the actions showed a reckless or wanton disregard for public welfare.
  • The defendant’s actions showed such reckless indifference to the rights of others equating an intentional violation of those rights.

Experienced Miami Personal Injury Attorneys

Fighting a drunk driving accident case can be tiresome and overwhelming. The attorneys at Friedman & Friedman are dedicated to advocating on your behalf while you recover. When we take over your case, you can rest assured that we will fight relentlessly to get the justice you deserve. We’ll work with you to determine who is at fault in your case and to secure the highest amount of financial compensation possible. If you’ve been involved in a drunk driving accident, contact us today.


Tue Oct 8, 12:08pm