A severe car accident is a traumatic, harrowing experience. Dealing with the aftermath of a drunk driving accident is even more challenging.
Over the years, policymakers have imposed new penalties and regulations to reduce drinking and driving, but it remains a chronic problem throughout Fort Lauderdale and the country at large. Every year, thousands of Americans decide to get behind the wheel inebriated, and many will not make it home.
In fact, over 10,000 traffic accidents were the result of drunk driving and over 800 traffic deaths. In recent years in the Fort Lauderdale area, about 175 crashes have involved drunk drivers, who injured about 175 persons and killed 10.
Knowing that drunk driving is so avoidable makes it all the more heart-wrenching. In a recent study that surveyed why people allowed friends to drive intoxicated, many respondents stated that it was simply to avoid an argument.
The problem is so devastating because it tends to injure innocent people. Many Fort Lauderdale residents will never drink and drive, and yet will still suffer greatly because of those who do.
The ramifications of a DUI accident can be severe, with victims experiencing debilitating injuries and permanent disabilities. But the physical toll is often just the beginning; it may be difficult to work and enjoy life the same way. This isn’t to mention the hardship imposed on friends and family, who may have to provide ongoing care to the victim.
In such dire circumstances, victims should know they don’t have to suffer in silence. The law creates rights for those injured in a DUI accident. They can file a lawsuit that, if successful, can result in a significant financial award.
Deciding to pursue legal action is rarely an easy decision and should never be taken lightly. There are a few important factors to consider before filing a suit.
What’s My Case Worth?
Even the most seasoned attorney is unable to predict exactly how much a plaintiff will receive in compensation. There are simply too many factors at play, from the ambiguity of the evidence to the judge’s whims and the biases of the jury.
However, courts generally consider several factors when determining how much compensation a plaintiff deserves.
Firstly, they look at economic damages. In everyday terms, these damages address quantified losses. For example, if a person wracked up a $50,000 medical bill because her injuries required extensive surgery, the court may make the defendant cover this cost.
But not all damages are so straightforward; the variety known as noneconomic damages are more theoretical and harder to prove. Non-monetary damages cannot be quantified in a dollar amount, but rather seek to ascribe a value to an abstract loss the plaintiff suffered because of the defendant’s actions.
Classic examples of non-monetary damages include compensation for pain and suffering and mental anguish. Extensive evidence must be provided before the court will consider such claims. In some cases, the testimony of an expert witness, such as a psychologist, may be necessary.
If the Defendant Was Intoxicated, Will the Court Award More Damages?
Generally speaking, no. A DUI case will not, on the surface, bring more in damages than an accident involving a sober driver. This is because damages are used by the court solely to compensate the victim of the accident. In legal parlance, they are intended to make the victim whole. Therefore, the sobriety of the driver has no bearing on damages.
However, there are some exceptions.
Firstly, drunk driving accidents may indirectly result in greater damages because they tend to cause more serious accidents. Drunk drivers are less likely to brake or swerve before crashing, which usually leads to more significant injuries for the victim. They are also more likely to be speeding before the crash.
Secondly, if the driver is drunk, a court may be more likely to award punitive damages. Punitive damages are only awarded in extreme circumstances when the court intends to punish the defendant. Here, the court is sending a message to both the defendant and society that such conduct will not be tolerated. The court will go beyond what is necessary to make the plaintiff whole by awarding an unusually large sum of money.
Punitive damages are rare and only granted when the conduct is wanton, reckless, or grossly negligent.
When Should I Contact a Lawyer?
If an accident victim can pay their medical bills because a drunk driver hit them in Fort Lauderdale, they should speak with a DUI accident lawyer right away.
In most jurisdictions, a statute of limitations imposes a deadline by which the plaintiff must file a lawsuit, or permanently forfeit the right to legal action.
In Florida, the deadline is four years, but this isn’t as much time as it seems. The chaos, trauma, and upheaval that follows an accident mean the victim is hardly in a condition to even contemplate a lawsuit until weeks, or even months, have passed.
Also, personal injury lawsuits are often complex and take considerable time. They frequently require extensive investigation and discovery, the parties may go through multiple rounds of settlement negotiations, and trial procedures are usually tedious. Waiting to file suit means tacking more time onto a process that is already long and arduous. It is simply more efficient to start preparing as quickly as possible.
Unfortunately, far too many families in Fort Lauderdale and around the United States will experience a tragedy at the hands of a drunk driver. States continue to fight an uphill battle by imposing harsh penalties on people caught drinking and driving, but the problem remains.
For both the victim and their family, moving on after such a life-altering event is easier said than done. A person may no longer be able to work or even care for themselves, requiring constant assistance. Even those left without permanent disabilities may be left with enormous medical debt.
Nothing can completely replace what was lost, but a successful lawsuit can obtain invaluable compensation for the injured and their family during such a strenuous time.
An experienced personal injury attorney can litigate and try a case, but they also provide so much more than that. A good lawyer counsels their client, which goes beyond the mere interpretation of the law. It means providing an empathetic and candid voice while lending calm to an otherwise tumultuous time.
Speaking with a lawyer does not mean committing to a lawsuit; rather, initial meetings are a great way for the victim to understand their rights, what their options are, and how they might want to proceed with their case.