How Are Drunk Driving Accidents Different Than Other Personal Injury Claims?

Drunk driving is a serious problem in Florida just like it is everywhere in the United States. According to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) data, 10,142 people died in 2019 across the country in drunk-driving accidents. This is just the number of people who were killed in a drunk-driving accident and does not even count those injured, which is likely a much, much higher number. According to NHTSA data, 25 percent of the deaths in motor vehicle accidents in Florida in 2019 were as a result of drunk driving, which killed 790 people in the state in 2019. 

If you have been involved in a crash with a drunk driver in which you were injured and the police arrested the other driver, then that driver very well may be prosecuted for the offense of driving under the influence. However, both the speed as well as the ultimate process of the civil proceedings if you end up filing a lawsuit against that driver could very well end up being influenced by whether or not the other driver ends up being criminally prosecuted. This is because the drunk driver may end up trying to fight whatever criminal charges he or she is facing as a result of the incident, which could have consequences in your civil case as well. In addition, the drunk driver can be required to pay restitution to the victim of the accident as a part of his or her sentence in a DUI conviction. Drunk driving accidents are therefore unlike virtually any other type of personal injury scenario in this regard in that they can be affected by parallel criminal proceedings going on as a result of the same accident. They are also different from other personal injury claims in that sometimes someone who has been injured by a drunk driver may be able to more easily assert claims against a third party based on the accident if the drunk driver was under 21, was habitually addicted to alcohol or was driving someone else’s vehicle at the time of the accident.

An Unusual Scenario

If the civil and criminal cases are being prosecuted at the same time, then the defendant is likely to take the Fifth Amendment when being questioned in a deposition in the civil lawsuit. In the criminal case, the prosecution cannot comment on a criminal defendant’s refusal to testify in his or her own defense or to take the Fifth Amendment and refuse to answer questions that may implicate the driver, but in a civil case the rules are quite different. In a civil case, an injured party can ask the judge to impose what is known as a negative inference against the drunk driver if he or she takes the Fifth Amendment and refuses to answer questions in any testimony in a civil suit. This means that the jury is informed the defendant refused to answer questions or give testimony and the jury can then assume that whatever testimony the drunk driver would have given would be harmful to his or her defense in the civil case filed by the injured party.

Other Differences between Drunk Driving Accidents and Other Personal Injury Scenarios

Drunk driving accidents are also unique in that the drunk driver may not be the only party that you can file a claim against if you were injured in an accident caused by that driver. If the drunk driver is under 21 or is known to be habitually addicted to alcohol, then you can pursue a claim against whoever served alcohol to the drunk driver. In addition, if the drunk driver was driving someone else’s vehicle, then you can seek to assert a claim against the owner of the car under something known as Florida’s dangerous instrumentality law. 

Contact Schwed Adams & McGinley

At Schwed, Adams & McGinley, P.A.,our experienced personal injury attorneys have more than 150 years of combined legal practice representing victims of motor vehicle accidents, slip and fall incidents and other personal injury scenarios in Florida. Drunk driving is a scourge in Florida just like every else in the United States and we have represented numerous claimants who have been injured by a drunk driver in a motor vehicle accident in Florida. Therefore, if you, a family member, or a loved one have been injured in an accident caused by a drunk driver or other type of motor vehicle accident, slip and fall incident or any other situation caused by someone else’s negligence in Florida, contact the experienced personal injury attorneys at Schwed, Adams & McGinley, P.A. today at 877-694-6079 or contact@schwedlawfirm.com for a free consultation.