Drunk driving accidents are frustrating and overwhelming for victims and their families. Painful injuries, missed work, and costly expenses that were not your fault are now putting stress on your everyday life.
Drunk driving car crash victims have rights and legal options to pursue justice and hold the responsible party accountable. Our Tampa car accident attorneys explain what you need to know about drunk driving crashes in Florida.
How common are drunk driving accidents in Florida?
According to the latest data shared by Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV), there were 5,746 crashes involving alcohol, drugs, or a combination of both in 2022. FLHSMV data also notes that the most drunk driving-related accidents occur in the month of March when tourists travel to the state for spring break. A total of 586 of these crashes, which is almost 10% of the total DUI accidents, happened in March of 2022.
Overall, Florida ranks among the states with the highest rates of drunk driving fatalities. American Addiction Centers shares that California had the most deaths, with 1,120 fatalities from alcohol impairment. Florida followed with 839 deaths, then North Carolina with 413 DUI deaths.
FLHSMV breaks down which Florida counties had the most drunk driving crashes in 2022 as follows:
- Pinellas County: 64
- Duval County: 58
- Hillsborough County (including Tampa, FL): 54
- Lee County: 49
- Orange County: 40
- Manatee County: 34
- All other counties: 492
Can I sue if I have been hit by a drunk driver in Florida?
Yes, drunk driving accident victims have the right to take legal action against the responsible party who caused their injuries, suffering, and financial losses. Your car accident case is a civil lawsuit and separate from any criminal charges the state of Florida brings against the driver.
While a criminal case is meant to punish the person for breaking the law, your civil suit seeks compensation for all the ways you’ve suffered as a result of the accident. Even if the state drops the criminal charges, you are still able to pursue your civil case and recover damages.
Who can I sue for a drunk driving accident?
It’s crucial to identify the at-fault party in order to bring a successful car accident lawsuit and receive the compensation you deserve. However, the person or business responsible for the drunk driving accident will differ for every situation.
1. The drunk driver’s insurance company
Although Florida is a no-fault state, DUI accidents can be a little different than a standard fender bender. Victims often suffer debilitating injuries and chronic pain that require long-term medical care. In these cases, you may be able to file a claim with the drunk driver’s insurance company to cover your damages. Consult an experienced car crash lawyer to learn more about this option.
2. The drunk driver
If you can prove that the drunk driver caused the accident and your damages, you can sue a drunk driver in Florida. However, simply showing that the driver was drunk at the time of the accident is not enough to win your case. You must prove that the driver was negligent, which led to the accident and your injuries.
3. An establishment who overserved the driver
Florida’s dram shop law states that establishments serving alcohol may be held liable for an impaired driving accident if they:
- Served alcohol to a minor
- Served alcohol to a person of legal age who is addicted to alcoholic beverages
These cases can be complex because you have to prove that the establishment knowingly serviced alcohol to an underage person or addict. Working with a car accident attorney who knows the law and has the skill to gather important evidence will be vital to the outcome of your case.
Florida drunk driving laws
Under FLA. STAT. § 316.193 (2022), driving under the influence of alcohol is illegal in Florida. Any person with a blood-alcohol level (BAL) over the legal limit of 0.08 or more is subject to the following criminal penalties:
- A fine between $500 and $1,000
- Possible imprisonment of no longer than six months
- A fine between $1,000 and $2,000
- Possible imprisonment of no longer than nine months
- If the offense is within five years of the first, mandatory imprisonment of at least 10 days
- A fine between $2,000 and $5,000
- Imprisonment of no longer than 12 months (more than 10 years from the second offense)
- Mandatory imprisonment of at least 30 days (within 10 years from the second offense)
Fourth and subsequent convictions
- A fine of at least $2,000
- Imprisonment of no longer than five years
There are also more severe punishments for drunk drivers who are found with a BAL of .15 or higher, or who caused serious bodily injury or death. These punishments may include higher fines or longer imprisonment times.
Drunk drivers may also be subject to civil consequences if the accident victim or family members of a wrongful death victim bring a lawsuit against them. They may be held responsible for damages and required to provide compensation for medical expenses, property damage, emotional distress, and more.
What damages can I recover if I have been hit by a drunk driver?
If you or a loved one was injured in a crash caused by a drunk driver, you shouldn’t have to carry the financial burden of the accident. You may qualify to claim compensation for your losses, including:
Economic damages are financial hardships that result from the accident:
- Medical bills
- Expenses for future medical care
- Lost wages
- Loss of future earnings capacity
- Vehicle repair expenses
- Other property damage
Non-economic damages are related to the pain and suffering caused by the crash:
- Emotional distress
- Mental anguish
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Loss of companionship
- Loss of consortium
You may also claim punitive or exemplary damages in some drunk driving accident cases. Punitive damages are meant to punish the drunk driver for particularly malicious or reckless behavior. Speak with an experienced Tampa car accident lawyer to see if you can claim punitive damages and what your case may be worth.
What if I was partially at fault for the accident?
According to Florida’s pure comparative negligence law, accident victims can still claim compensation for damages — even if they share some fault for the crash. However, the amount you receive will be diminished in proportion to your level of fault. For example, if you are found to be 25% responsible for the accident, you can only be awarded 75% of the value of qualifying damages.
Why is it important to speak with an experienced drunk driving accident lawyer?
Drunk driving accidents often have devastating results. Victims and their families are left with substantial expenses and reluctant insurance companies trying to minimize their claim payouts. Working with a skilled car accident attorney means you have legal professionals on your side to take on the insurance companies and ensure you get the maximum amount for your claim.
When you hire experienced Florida car crash attorneys, they will:
- Provide legal guidance and advocacy throughout the claims process
- Conduct a thorough investigation of what caused the accident
- Gather crucial evidence to support your claim
- Build your case using proven legal strategies and extensive knowledge of Florida law
- Identify and value your damages
- Use professional negotiation skills to secure a favorable settlement
- If necessary, take your case to trial
Don’t let pushy insurance adjusters pressure you to accept an unfair offer. Contact an attorney to ensure you’re getting the financial compensation you deserve.
Call Tampa’s top drunk driving accident attorneys today
The Tampa car accident lawyers at Jack Bernstein, Injury Attorneys are ready to fight for justice after a drunk driving accident. We can help you claim the full amount of your damages to cover expenses and compensate you for your losses.
Drunk Driving Deaths by State. (2023).