One Dead After High-Speed Drunk Driving Crash
Charges are pending against a man who killed one person and injured several others in an alcohol-related wreck in Tampa.
The wreck happened on northbound Interstate 75 near the Fletcher Avenue exit. Florida Highway Patrol investigators say a 31-year-old man overtook a Chevrolet Cruz, causing that vehicle to spin out of control and smacked into a tree. The other driver’s vehicle, a Honda Accord, left the road and hit a light pole.
A 25-year-old Zephyrhills woman was declared dead at the scene. Her passenger, a 25-year-old man who was also from Zephyrhills, was rushed to a nearby hospital with serious injuries. He didn’t survive.
First Party Liability
Criminal courts punish offenders. A Tampa personal injury lawyer files an injury claim to obtain compensation for the victim. This compensation usually includes money for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.
Extreme drunk driving wrecks, like the one in the above story, usually involve the negligence per se rule. In Florida, tortfeasors (negligent drivers) who violate penal safety laws, like the DUI law, and cause injuries are responsible for damages as a matter of law.
So, evidence of intoxication and erratic driving isn’t relevant for liability purposes. However, it’s relevant for damages purposes. Usually, the more evidence a victim/plaintiff presents, the more sympathetic jurors become, and the more compensation they award.
Most negligence per se claims in Hillsborough County involve DUIs. Emergency responders rarely write citations for traffic infractions after serious injury or fatal accidents. They consider such matters civil disputes. Even if they do issue such citations, the negligence per se rule doesn’t fully apply. These citations create a presumption of negligence in Florida. But they don’t prove negligence.
Less extreme alcohol-related wrecks usually involve the ordinary negligence doctrine. Many drivers are seriously impaired but not legally intoxicated. Impairment begins at the first drink. Most people must have three or four drinks before they’re legally intoxicated.
Compensation is still available in these situations. Circumstantial evidence of alcohol impairment includes:
- Physical symptoms, like bloodshot eyes,
- Erratic or reckless driving before the crash,
- Tortfeasor’s statements about alcohol consumption, and
- Tortfeasor’s previous behavior.
If the negligent driver was recently at a bar, restaurant, or other commercial alcohol establishment, it’s more likely than not that s/he had at least one drink while there. More likely than not (a preponderance of the evidence) is the burden of proof in a civil claim.
Third Party Liability
These commercial providers could be financially responsible for damages in some cases. Florida has a limited dram shop law.
Some states have broad dram shop laws which imply that the provider was entirely responsible for the wreck. That’s clearly not true. Other states have no dram shop law at all. These states effectively let reckless alcohol providers off the hook. So, a middle ground is probably a good thing.
In the Sunshine State, commercial alcohol providers are vicariously liable for car crash damages if they knowingly sell alcohol to a person who is habitually addicted to this substance. Evidence on this point includes prior alcohol purchases at prior times at that location and statements the tortfeasor makes to bartenders and others. You’d be surprised what people say in these situations.
Vicarious liability is especially important in catastrophic injury collisions. Frequently, these providers have deep pockets, so they have the resources to pay fair compensation. However, they also use these resources to fight these claims, so these matters are complex.
Reach Out to a Diligent Hillsborough County Attorney
Injury victims are entitled to important financial benefits. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Tampa, contact Kobal Law. Virtual, home, and hospital visits are available.