Orlando Drunk Driving Accident Attorney
Drunk driving is not only illegal, but dangerous. Those who get behind the wheel after having too much to drink risk harming others in a severe, possibly fatal, because of their negligent choices. Sustaining severe injuries after a drunk driver has hit your car, bike, or motorcycle devastates victims and their families; pedestrians are lucky to live through an encounter with a drunk driver. In any case, accident injury victims often need to miss large chunks of time from their job, losing wages as they continue to amass medical expenses. The financial stress adds to the emotional trauma of injury and recovery.
If you have been harmed in an accident with a drunk driver or lost a loved one, Florida law entitles you to seek compensation for damages related to the auto accident and your loss. Michael T. Gibson, P.A. has years of experience helping drunk driving accident victims seek the compensation they deserve. If you live in the Orlando area, call 407-422-4529 for a free consultation to discuss the circumstances of your accident and determine your eligibility for compensation.
Our Results in Drunk Driving Accident Cases
The dedicated legal team at Michael T. Gibson, P.A. has been seeking justice for accident injury victims for almost two decades, including those who have been harmed in a drunk driving accident. The firm’s passionate commitment to exceptional client service and the pursuit of justice has led to the recovery of millions of dollars of damages from settlements and court verdicts in favor of the plaintiff. Our recent auto accident cases can show you what we have done for others in similar circumstances.
These results are only examples and do not guarantee an outcome for your case. Each case has unique circumstances which determine if a victim receives compensation, and how much they might receive. We can, however, guarantee that we will do our best to build a strong case against the defense and fight for the best outcome for your situation.
Florida Drunk Driving by the Numbers
In the last three decades, drunk driving fatalities have decreased by more than 30 percent across the United States, according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA). Yet, almost 30 people per day still die in drunk driving crashes. Data from the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV) reveals drunk driving in Florida has also decreased over recent years. According to the FLHSMV:
- Alcohol-related traffic collisions in Florida have decreased by more than seven percent over the last three years.
- In 2015, drunk drivers in Florida caused 450 fatal crashes, the highest number of alcohol-related fatal crashes in recent years.
- Fatal alcohol-related crashes in Florida have decreased by about 25 percent since 2015.
- According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Florida’s alcohol-related crash statistics have historically fallen above the nation’s average, especially among the 21 to 34 age group, who are most likely to drink and drive.
How Does Florida’s No-Fault Insurance Affect a Drunk Driving Accident?
Florida’s no fault insurance laws require Florida residents who register a motor vehicle to carry a minimum of $10,000 in coverage each for property damage liability (PDL) and personal injury protection (PIP) coverage. When an accident occurs, each driver files a claim under their own carrier to recover losses related to the accident. In Florida, PIP coverage includes the following:
- 80 percent of the costs of necessary medical treatment related to injuries resulting from the accident up to the policy limit
- 60 percent of lost wages incurred as a result of injury, hospitalization, and treatment related to the accident up to the policy limit
When a drunk driving accident injuries are catastrophic or severe, it’s not uncommon for victims to quickly meet and exceed their PIP policy limit. In these cases, victims must try to seek compensation for damages with the help of a qualified Florida personal injury attorney who has experience with auto accidents and drunk driving accidents.
Potential Injuries From a Florida Drunk Driving Accident
Sometimes being involved in a drunk driving accident doesn’t result in serious injury. Other times, drunk driving accidents are severe or fatal and cause serious injury requiring immediate medical treatment. Those who suffer harm in a drunk driving accident might experience one or more of the following injuries:
- Fractured and broken bones. A broken bone isn’t typically a severe injury; however, when accidents occur at high speeds and victims suffer multiple fractures, they might have to undergo multiple surgeries with screws, pins, or plates used for reconstruction.
- Head injuries. A head injury is among the most serious of all accident injuries. Victims can experience direct trauma when something strikes their head during impact, or indirect trauma from impact, which might lead to a traumatic brain injury (TBI). Those who suffer a TBI might face chronic pain and continuing struggles with thinking, remembering, and other cognitive functions. TBI victims might also have difficulties with vision, hearing, and other senses and often suffer behavioral changes, especially increasing aggressiveness.
- Neck injuries. The most common neck injury from a drunk driving accident is whiplash, soft tissue damage from a person’s neck getting jarred upon the impact of the collision. Those who suffer severe whiplash might face weeks or months of rehabilitation before potentially making a full recovery.
- Back injuries. The force from a drunk driving accident can cause a driver’s or occupant’s body to twist in many different positions depending on seat belt use, airbag deployment, and the speed upon impact. The result can be severe back injuries which include broken, bulged, or slipped vertebrae. Back injuries often cause victims chronic pain that continues for life, even with one or more corrective surgeries.
- Spinal cord injuries. A minor spinal cord injury might result in temporary loss of function or paralysis, but as the swelling subsides and healing occurs, many victims make a full recovery. Yet, when damage to the spinal cord is severe, victims face permanent paralysis and loss of bodily functions in some or all of the body. Generally speaking, the higher up on the spinal cord an injury occurs, the more severe the permanent loss might be. The spine carries messages from the brain throughout the central nervous system, so injuries closer to the head and neck potentially stop more messages from reaching their final destination. Spinal cord injuries which cause permanent disability result in extensive costs for medical treatment, long-term care, assistive technology, and assistive devices.
- Crushed limbs. Drunk driving accidents which occur at high speeds put drivers and occupants at risk for their limbs getting pinned and crushed in the car when impact occurs. Pedestrians and bicyclists might also get pinned under a car or truck during a drunk driving accident. Crushed limbs require extensive recovery and in many cases, amputation. Victims who must experience the physical pain of amputation, recovery, and phantom limb pain also face emotional struggles and mental anguish in the wake of a drunk driving accident.
- Burns. When a drunk driving accident leads to an explosion and/or fire, those involved can suffer severe burns. Depending on the degree of the burn and the extent to which it covers the body, victims might suffer permanent scars and require multiple skin grafts and reconstructive surgeries.
Third Party Liability in Florida Drunk Driving Accidents
In many drunk driving cases, Florida courts easily find the drunk driver liable for damages. Yet, in some cases, one or more third parties might share liability with the driver. Some examples include:
- Employers. If a person drives a company vehicle while under the influence of alcohol and causes an accident, a Florida court might find the employer partially liable for damages from a drunk driving accident.
- Businesses which sell alcohol. Under Florida law, restaurants, bars, and other business who knowingly serve “a person habitually addicted to the use of any or all alcoholic beverages,” or a minor under age 21, can be responsible for damages if the person they serve leaves their establishment and causes harm to another in a drunk driving accident.
- Social hosts. Those who provide alcohol to others in a social setting such as a party or celebration can also be liable for damages if they knowingly serve an alcoholic or a minor.
Drunk Driving Accident Statistics in Orlando, FL
Recovering Damages After a Drunk Driving Accident
Once you have met or exceeded the limits of your mandatory PIP policy, which also extends to pedestrians, motorists, and children in your vehicle, you can seek additional compensation by bringing a lawsuit against the drunk driver who caused you harm. If a Florida court rules in your favor, you might receive punitive and compensatory damages for your injuries. Punitive damages are reserved for extreme cases, so don’t expect them. Your attorney will advise you on the likelihood of punitive damages for your case.
Florida courts most often award compensatory damages in personal injury cases to compensate victims for economic and non-economic losses related to the accident and accompanying injuries. Compensatory damages which are most commonly awarded include the following costs:
- Medical treatment including ambulance ride and emergency room visit, hospitalization, surgery, radiology, follow-up care, and medication
- Future medical treatment when a drunk driving accident causes a life-altering injury which requires extending recovery time or results in a permanent disability which requires lifelong treatment and nursing care
- Rehabilitation with physical therapists, occupational therapists, and other specialists which help victims recover bodily function
- Assistive devices and technology such as wheelchairs, crutches, canes, artificial limbs, and special computer programs used for communication
- Lost wages from missing work due to the accident, injury, hospitalization, and recovery
- Lost earning capacity when a drunk driving accident causes a severe injury or permanent disability preventing an accident injury victim from returning to their job
- Pain and suffering
- Mental anguish
- Loss of quality of life
- Loss of consortium
- Scarring and disfigurement
If you lost a child or other family member as a result of a drunk driving accident, you might be eligible for compensation through a wrongful death suit depending on your relationship with the deceased. In a wrongful death suit in Florida, you might be able to recover some of the damages above as well as burial costs and funeral expenses. Your trusted attorney will guide you on what applies to your family’s circumstances.
Orlando Drunk Driving Accident FAQ
Orlando is, unfortunately, no stranger to the consequences of drunk driving. Alcohol is a confirmed factor in more than 5,000 traffic accidents in Florida each year, resulting in more than 350 fatalities and around 3,000 injuries. Across the nation, around 30 people die each day as a result of drunk driving accidents. Dozens die every year and hundreds sustain injuries due to alcohol-related crashes in Orlando alone. Alcohol impairment is a dangerous practice when combined with driving, as alcohol reduces the functions of the brain needed for thinking, reasoning, and muscle coordination.
Despite popular belief, impairment does not begin at the legal driving limit of 0.08 grams of alcohol per deciliter of blood. Impairment actually begins with the first drink and the ability to perform the tasks needed for the safe operation of a motor vehicle is increasingly diminished with each subsequent drink.
The Orlando drunk driving accident associates at Michael T. Gibson, P.A. have witnessed firsthand the effects of drunk driving on our community, and are dedicated to helping our Orlando neighbors seek justice when they suffer injury or loss at the hands of a drunk driver. For more information or a free consultation, contact Michael T. Gibson, P.A., Auto Justice Attorney, online.
Read on for answers to some of the questions our Orlando clients most frequently ask regarding drunk driving accidents.
How can I recover damages related to the drunk driving accident that caused my injuries?
Orlando residents injured in accidents that were caused by a drunk driver have a couple of different options for recovering damages, including:
- Filing a claim with your own personal injury protection (PIP) policy that you were required to purchase when you registered your car in the state. This policy will provide payment of medically necessary expenses and up to 80 percent of lost wages due to being too injured to work. The policy can also provide compensation for household services that you must hire someone to perform due to your injury and will cover the cost of funeral services and burial if an insured dies as a result of his or her accident-related injury. While the no-fault insurance scheme in Florida was designed to allow injured people to seek compensation from their own insurance carrier and reduce the burden on the court system, the policy does have its limits. The literal limit of what you can receive is generally $10,000—the minimum amount of PIP insurance required. Most serious injuries cost far more than that. Additionally, you cannot recover compensation for non-economic damages such as physical pain and suffering or emotional distress through a PIP claim.
- For those whose injury-related expenses have exceeded the limit of their PIP policy or whose injuries meet the state’s serious injury threshold, the opportunity to recover damages through an Orlando drunk driving accident lawsuit is permitted. The serious injury threshold includes injuries that include a significant and permanent loss of a bodily function; permanent injury within a reasonable degree of medical probability, other than scarring or disfigurement; significant and permanent scarring and disfigurement; or death.
An Orlando drunk driving accident lawsuit generally must be filed within four years of the date on which the accident occurred. There are certain reasons why this deadline might be shorter or longer, including injuries that were incurred by a minor, a person’s failure to immediately realize that he or she was injured; or claims against an employee of a government agency. Your Orlando drunk driving accident attorney will advise you if the statute of limitations in your case is different than the general timeline of four years.
What damages can I recover through an Orlando drunk driving accident lawsuit?
Those injured in drunk driving accidents in Orlando can recover both economic and non-economic damages through an Orlando drunk driving accident lawsuit. Economic damages are out-of-pocket expenses that are easily proven through medical bills, invoices for services, and pay stubs that show what one’s normal pay would be.
These damages include:
- Medical expenses
- Lost wages
- Loss of future earning capacity, if your injury results in a permanent disability that prevents you from returning to work
- Property damage, such as the cost of repairing or replacing your car
- The cost of hiring someone to perform household services that your injury prevents you from doing on your own.
Non-economic damages are damages related to the impacts that your injury has on your life. These damages are harder to quantify and require an experienced Orlando drunk driving accident lawyer to calculate.
Examples of non-economic damages include:
- Physical pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Loss of the enjoyment of life
- Loss of consortium, which is a damage collected on behalf of the injured person’s spouse for loss of physical intimacy and companionship as a result of the injury.
In some cases, you may recover punitive damages. Punitive damages are not related to the expenses you have incurred or the impacts your injury has had on your life. Instead, these damages punish a defendant for particularly reckless behavior.
The drunk driver from my accident was arrested. Does this prevent me from pursuing compensation?
No. An arrest is an action taken in criminal cases, while an Orlando drunk driving accident lawsuit is a civil action.
There are distinct differences between these two areas of the law, including:
- The government will pursue a criminal case if it believes it can prove the driver broke a law. An Orlando drunk driving accident case is pursued by the injured person—with the assistance of his or her attorney—to recover damages.
- Civil drunk driving accident cases do not result in government fines or incarceration. Criminal cases typically do not provide compensation for the injured.
Despite each arising from the same set of events, the criminal case against the drunk driver that caused your accident and the Orlando drunk driving accident lawsuit you file in civil court are two separate cases and can occur simultaneously.
A drunk driver took the life of my loved one. Is there a way for me to recover damages?
Yes. In Florida, the loved ones of a person killed in a drunk driving accident can recover compensation through a civil action called a wrongful death lawsuit. Wrongful death lawsuits can be filed on behalf of family members, including the deceased’s spouse, children, and parents, as well as other blood or adoptive family members who are wholly or in part dependent on the deceased for financial support. The statute of limitations for wrongful death cases is two years.
The damages you can recover in this type of action include:
- The value of support and services that the deceased has provided to the family member.
- Loss of companionship, guidance, and protection provided by the deceased to the family member.
- Medical expenses and funeral costs directly provided by the family member.
- Mental and emotional pain suffered due to the loss of a child.
The deceased’s estate can also recover damages through a wrongful death claim, including:
- Lost wages, benefits, and other earnings that the deceased would have likely earned throughout his or her career if he or she had lived.
- The net accumulations that the estate would have collected.
- Medical and funeral expenses paid directly by the estate.
What is Florida’s dram shop law and how does it potentially affect my case?
Florida’s Dram Shop Law states that business establishments who knowingly furnish alcohol to someone who is under the legal drinking age of 21 or is known by staff to be habitually addicted can be held liable for injuries that person causes if they experience an accident while driving drunk after leaving the establishment. If your accident was caused by someone who was known to be habitually addicted or underage, your attorney can investigate the matter to find out if the alcohol was furnished by a business establishment.
Because insurance policies are the way that most Orlando drunk driving accident settlements and awards are paid, the amount of insurance that the liable party has is one of the main factors that affect the amount of money available for compensation. If there is another source of liability and another insurance resource that can be accessed, you may opportunity for greater compensation.
Is it easier to prove liability in a drunk driving accident than one where the driver is impaired by drugs?
Many times it is. The reason for this is that the effects of alcohol are well-known, and the methods of testing one’s level of impairment are readily accepted by the courts. With certain drugs, the correlation between impairment and unsafe driving fare not as well known, and the tests for proving drug impairment are not necessarily as accurate, accepted, or available at the scene of a drunk driving accident.
If I file an Orlando drunk driving accident lawsuit, does that mean I have to face the drunk driver in court?
Not always. In fact, given that the vast majority of Orlando drunk driving accident cases are settled out of court, it is more likely that you will not have to face the drunk driver in court. That said, hire an Orlando drunk driving accident attorney who is comfortable and confident in the notion of obtaining the most compensation available to you, regardless of whether that happens through a settlement negotiation or litigation.
How much is the average settlement for an Orlando drunk driving accident case involving a drunk driver?
Because each case is based on a unique set of facts, including the severity of the accident, the severity of the injuries, and the impacts those injuries have on one’s life, there really isn’t an average settlement.
However, several factors can impact the value of your case, including:
- The amount of insurance the at-fault party has. While it is possible to sue an uninsured person and even obtain a judgment against them, collecting your award would be difficult as most people do not have the money to pay for medical expenses and other damages out-of-pocket.
- The clarity of liability. Even if you are partially responsible for the accident that caused your injury, you can still file an Orlando drunk driving accident lawsuit against other liable parties. However, your award or settlement will likely be reduced by the percentage of blame you bear for the accident.
- Your age and health at the time of the accident. Age affects some of the damage categories, including lost wages and loss of future earning capacity. An individual who becomes hurt while in the middle of a career likely earns a lot more than someone who is too young to have a career or someone who is retired and no longer earning an income. Your health becomes an important consideration as the at-fault party’s insurer will likely argue that the pain you are experiencing is a result of pre-existing conditions.
- Your patience. Orlando drunk driving accident settlements take time, as does litigation. Often, insurance companies will reserve their best settlement offer until just before trial begins or even after it has begun but a judgment has not yet been reached. This often pays off for those who are willing to wait and allow their attorneys to gather the information needed to present the best case possible as well as to negotiate with the at-fault party’s insurance company.
If the other driver was obviously drunk at the time of the accident, why do I need an attorney?
Whether it is guidance as to the legal process, the provision of information needed to make an informed decision on whether to accept a settlement offer, timely filing of court-required paperwork, attendance at all pre-trial conferences and hearings, skilled negotiation, or assistance collecting your settlement or award, an experienced Orlando drunk driving accident attorney has spent years perfecting the skills needed to assist you in a successful outcome to your case.
Because our Orlando drunk driving accident attorneys provide free case evaluations and work on a contingent fee basis—meaning they do not get paid for their services until you obtain a settlement or award—anyone who was injured in a drunk driving accident can afford to take advantage of the experience your attorney can offer you.
If you have further questions following an Orlando drunk driving accident, contact Michael T. Gibson, P.A., Auto Justice Attorney, today.
Hire an Orlando Drunk Driving Accident Attorney at Michael T. Gibson P.A. Today
The skilled personal injury attorneys at Michael T. Gibson P.A. understand the difficulties you and your family might be facing after a drunk driving accident. In addition to guiding you through the lawsuit process, we will investigate your accident to uncover facts that build a strong case against the drunk driver who harmed you or your family. This allows you to focus on coping with your loss and dealing with the aftermath of a severe accident.
Our team will handle communications with relevant parties and negotiate with insurance companies to make sure you get the compensation you deserve. When settlement is not an option, our skilled litigators will fight for justice in the courtroom and help to make sure the drunk driver who caused your accident gets held accountable for his or her actions.
If you or a loved one suffered injuries or died in a drunk driving accident in the Greater Orlando area, you shouldn’t have to shoulder the financial burden caused by a severe accident. You deserve full and fair compensation for your losses.
Contact Michael T. Gibson P.A. today online or call 407-422-4529 for a free consultation to share the details of your case. We will evaluate your case, determine your eligibility for compensation, and advise you on the best course of action for your situation. If you choose Michael T. Gibson, P.A. to represent you in your drunk driving accident case, you will not have to pay our attorney fees out-of-pocket. We handle personal injury cases on a contingent fee basis, and deduct fees from any compensation you receive in a settlement or court-awarded damages.