The Tampa area, including St. Petersburg and Clearwater, is renowned for its rich nightlife scene and some of the best beaches in the country. Residents and visitors alike spend a lot of time enjoying the beaches during the day, and look forward to going out for dinner, dancing, and entertainment later in the evening. Undoubtedly, the lively environment may encourage some individuals to overindulge before calling it a night.
It may not be surprising, then, that the Tampa-area experiences a high number of alcohol-related motor vehicle accidents. Accidents involving an impaired driver occur at a high frequency during both daytime hours and after dark. In a densely populated area that’s also a popular destination for young people, drinking and driving accidents are, unfortunately, inevitable.
Tampa Driving Under the Influence Statistics
In one recent year, the Tampa area reported 809 alcohol-related crashes. From these accidents, there were 35 fatalities and 438 injuries. As of October 2020, the Tampa area has reported 502 alcohol-related crashes resulting in 23 fatalities and 226 injuries this year alone. Additionally, drivers allegedly under the influence of drugs caused at least fifty wrecks. Of those wrecks, there were thirteen fatalities and fifty additional injuries.
Consequences of Reckless Behavior
When someone causes an accident while driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, their behavior is often reckless or grossly negligent. Those accused of causing an accident while impaired may not only be held liable for damages in a civil lawsuit, but also will most likely face criminal charges related to their behavior.
Generally, injured victims may be entitled to seek compensation for any economic and non-economic damages incurred as a result of a drunk-driving accident. In particularly egregious circumstances, a court or jury may award punitive damages, in addition to other compensation, although this occurs only rarely. Punitive damages act as a form of punishment intended to deter similar grossly negligent behavior in the future.
Injuries From Reckless Behavior
Individuals involved in drinking and driving accidents may experience a wide range of injuries.
The number of vehicles involved, the types of vehicles, the speed of the vehicles, and the angle of the impact can determine the types and severity of the injuries that result from drunk driving accidents.
Some drunk driving accident injuries include:
- Bruises, cuts, scrapes, and scratches;
- Road rash;
- Head, neck, and shoulder injuries;
- Traumatic brain injuries;
- Back and spinal cord injuries;
- Internal injuries;
- Simple and compound fractures; and
- Soft tissue injuries, such as pulled and torn muscles, strains, and sprains.
Some injuries, for example, severe burns or road rash may cause victims to sustain permanent disfigurement. Further detriment may be caused by spinal cord injuries, internal injuries, and traumatic brain injuries, all of which may cause long-term or permanent disabilities.
Following a drunk driving accident, everyone involved should seek a medical evaluation as soon as possible. Some serious, and even life-threatening, injuries may not immediately show symptoms. A professional examination and diagnostic testing can detect injuries that may otherwise go unnoticed, preventing further injuries or complications that could lead to physical limitations.
Always inform your medical care provider that you were involved in a motor vehicle accident when you receive your evaluation.
Recoverable Damages for DUI Accidents
In most cases where individuals suffer injuries in an accident caused by a driver who was impaired by alcohol or drugs, injured victims may seek compensation. When drunk driving accidents cause fatalities, surviving family members may also be entitled to seek compensation for the losses they have incurred as a result. As mentioned, under Florida law, injured victims may collect three types of damages: economic, non-economic, and punitive damages.
Economic damages. Economic damages, or special damages, are tangible costs that have a monetary value.
Economic damages may include any expenses an injured victim had to pay-out-of-pocket, resulting from the accident, including:
- Medical expenses, including all doctor visits, procedures, treatments, prescribed medications, and rehabilitative therapies required for accident-related injuries.
- Future medical expenses for the estimated costs of medical needs and care that will be incurred following the settlement or trial award. For drunk driving injuries that require long-term care or permanent disability, future medical expenses can be significant.
- Past lost income can be compensated for the time injured victims were unable to work as a result of the accident or recovery from their injuries. Victims are typically entitled to collect past lost wages for any missed work from the date of the accident until the case resolves.
- Future lost wages may be available for victims whose injuries prevent them from ever returning to work. Victims who can’t return to work in the same capacity as before the accident may collect compensation.
- Funeral, burial, or cremation expenses may be available to family members of victims killed in a drunk driving accident.
Non-economic damages. Non-economic damages, or general damages, do not have a monetary value. Rather, non-economic damages compensate victims for the intangible losses that have impacted their lives and their family’s lives.
Non-economic damages may include:
- Pain and suffering, including emotional distress.
- Loss of companionship if you are no longer able to participate in activities that you enjoyed before the accident.
- Loss of consortium if you can no longer have a physical relationship with your spouse or significant other.
- Loss of enjoyment of life.
- Loss of use of a bodily function, such as your eyesight or mobility.
- Loss of use of a body part, such as a hand or foot.
- Disfigurement if your injuries leave permanent scarring or other disfigurement.
- Inconvenience if you have to pay others for household maintenance that you performed before a drunk driver injured you. For example, lawn care services, cleaning services, or grocery delivery may be non-economic damages.
Injured victims often find it helpful to journal or otherwise document their progress, and setbacks, too, throughout their recovery. Collecting information and medical records along the way will help injured victims demonstrate the impact their injury has had on their daily lives.
Punitive damages. Generally, injured parties must meet a high burden of proof when seeking punitive damages in a drunk driving accident claim. Under Florida law, however, the burden of proof required of victims of a drunk driving accident is relatively low. When a drunk driver injures someone, courts are more likely to award punitive damages.
By awarding economic and non-economic damages, the law and the courts aim to make injured victims whole again. Punitive damages, on the other hand, punish individuals whose drinking and driving led them to injure others.