Articles Posted in Driving Under the Influence (DUI)

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While injury victims pursue personal injury lawsuits to obtain compensation for economic losses, pain and suffering, and other harm experienced because of careless or inattentive conduct, some forms of behavior merit a different form of damages.  Unlike compensatory damages, exemplary or punitive damages serve the function of punishing a wrongdoer and discouraging recidivism.  Although the amount awarded can be substantial, Florida law applies caps on the amount of punitive damages that can be awarded and imposes a higher evidentiary standard.  In this blog, our Miami personal injury attorneys review a recent court decision wherein a Florida appellate court made the task of pursuing punitive damages even more difficult.

In Persaud v. Cortes, et al, the plaintiff in a lawsuit involving a rear-end collision sued a drunk driver.  The intoxicated motorist caused the driver of the vehicle struck from the rear to suffer serious injury while a passenger in the vehicle died.  The estate of the decedent and injured driver filed a lawsuit seeking both compensatory and punitive damages against the alcohol-impaired driver.  There was not much dispute regarding the fact the defendant was intoxicated since he had a breath alcohol concentration (BAC) of .32. Continue reading →

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In September, a wrong way crash on Interstate 95 killed two sisters from Broward County.  Now, the driver is being charged with DUI manslaughter and driving without a license causing death.  The accident killed 23 and 24 year old sisters from Pompano Beach who were driving home from Walt Disney World.  Authorities report that the driver headed north on southbound I-95, colliding with the sisters’ car.  Records show the driver was intoxicated at the time of the crash.

The South Florida car accident attorneys at Greenberg, Stone, and Urbano are aware of several major wrong way accidents that have occurred in the South Florida area in recent months.  We hope that this alarming trend does not continue and support the use of innovative measures to prevent wrong way accidents, such as wrong way signs triggered by wrong way vehicles and poles to block wrong way cars. Continue reading →

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A horrifying video has been released showing two young men speeding to their deaths.  The 21 year old passenger filmed his 20 year old friend while driving.  The passenger tells the driver on the video to slow down because he is doing 90 mph.  Minutes later, the vehicle loses control and crashes into a church wall, killing both men instantly.  The video emerged out of East Sussex and was released by local police, with permission from the families of these young men.  The pair were apparently on a cocktail of drugs at the time of the accident.  One of the men leaves behind a five year old daughter.  The families of these deceased individuals are hoping that the video footage will have an impact on young people and will cause others to think twice before ingesting drugs and driving.

The Miami car accident lawyers at Greenberg, Stone, & Urbano are shocked by this horrific video and join in the hope that it will raise awareness as to the dangers of driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.  The following is a look at some facts surrounding drugged driving and what you should do in the event you are injured by a driver who is potentially under the influence of drugs.

The Dangers of Drugged Driving

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Despite stricter DUI penalties, more aggressive law enforcement strategies and enormous expenditures on public awareness campaigns, drunk drivers still cause approximately 10,000 fatalities and 170,000 injuries annually, which amount to one-third of all traffic crash-related deaths.  This high toll in bodily injuries and fatalities has led many traffic safety advocates to argue that additional steps are necessary to prevent alcohol-related accidents in Florida and across the U.S.  Our Miami personal injury lawyers have been following a proposal that the .08 blood alcohol concentration (BAC) for finding a driver is intoxicated be reduced.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has recommended that the .08 percent BAC level be lowered by nearly half to .05 percent.  The federal agency cannot require such changes, but it can make recommendation that can be adopted by other states.  The federal government often offers financial incentives to prompt state compliance.  Currently, all fifty states have established .08 BAC as the legal threshold at which a driver is presumed to be too intoxicated to drive.  According to the NTSB, the change would save an estimated 1,000 lives per year along with preventing many other injuries.  Research cited by the agency indicates that motorists experienced a decline in vision, reaction time, reflexes, and cognitive brain activity if they have a .05 percent BAC.

The agency has also recommended that all drivers convicted of DUI be compelled to install an ignition interlock device (IID).  An IID requires motorists to blow into a portable breath testing device installed in the vehicle, which prohibits the engine from starting unless a breath test reveals the driver has a BAC significantly below the legal limit.  While Florida forces many drivers convicted of DUI to install an IID, the requirement is left to the discretion of the judge for a first time DUI unless a child passenger was in the vehicle or the driver had a BAC of .15 percent or above.

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Drunk driving is rampant is South Florida, and too many innocent people are being seriously injured or killed. While it is always heart-wrenching to lose someone in to a drunk driving accident, it is especially saddening when the victim was known for being such a wonderful, giving person. At the end of October 2013, Fannie Ash was on her way to Jordan Grove Missionary Baptist Church on a Sunday evening. This was routine for Fannie Ash, as she always greeted worshipers on Sundays, supervised the children and was devoutly involved in participating in Church sermons.

As Fannie was walking across the street after leaving her home, a Ford pickup truck slammed into her. The man who hit Fannie Ash claims the elderly woman jumped out of nowhere. Witnesses say that after the man hit Fannie Ash, he drove off. The man did end up coming back to the scene and admitted to the police that he was the man who hit, and killed Fannie Ash. Our Miami drunk driving accident lawyers discovered that the police suspected the man to be under the influence of alcohol, as his eyes were blood shot, his speech was slurred, and he smelled of alcohol. The man was subsequently charged with DUI manslaughter.

The man’s conduct ended Fannie Ash’s life and scarred her family and friends forever. Witnesses to the accident knew Fannie Ash very well, so this made the incident even more tragic. This was a woman who devoted her life to helping others. The heartbreak her family suffered should not be felt by anyone else. Fannie Ash’s story must be shared to encourage Florida citizens to avoid driving under the influence. While Fannie Ash cannot come back, her family can seek justice by filing a wrongful death lawsuit.
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It can certainly be a nightmare to sustain serious injuries due to the negligence of a drunk driver. In a split second, people’s lives can drastically change as a result of the poor choices of those who decide to drink and drive, despite the well-known and severely impairing effects of alcohol. While driving under the influence in the State of Florida is treated as a crime – and comes with it certain penalties (i.e., depending upon the nature of the accident and amount of prior DUI charges that the offender may have) – sometimes a DUI charge is simply not enough. For the innocent victims of intoxicated drivers, it is not surprising that following their accident, they are forced to deal with enormous medical expenses, pain and suffering, lost income and future wages, and other expenses associated with being injured in a car accident. In addition, for those that face resulting long-term or permanent disabilities, a DUI charge can never undo the damage caused by the careless and inexcusable choices of a person who ultimately chose to drive while intoxicated.

Our Miami car accident attorneys aggressively pursue personal injury cases against intoxicated drivers given our first-hand understanding as to how devastating DUI-related injuries can be for people involved in these types of accidents. With this in mind, we take these cases very seriously, and fight tirelessly to get our clients results. Despite whether criminal charges are pending or not against a wrongdoer, there are ways of holding drunk drivers as well as third parties responsible for having caused and/or contributed to our clients’ injuries, such as:
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Tourists from around the world love to visit South Beach for its weather, its beaches and its nightlife. Unfortunately, one of the prices South Floridians have to pay as a result of this nightlife is having intoxicated drivers who are under the influence of alcohol and other dangerous toxic substances on their roads.

The Florida Legislature has responded to this dangerous threat by criminally punishing those driving while intoxicated. This Legislation has facilitated the recovery of punitive damages by Miami personal injury lawyers in cases where their client was struck and either injured or killed by a drunk driver. The recovery of punitive damages is sought in addition to compensatory damages, i.e., those for pain, suffering, disability, disfigurement, loss of a bodily function, death, medical bills and lost wages, both in the past and to be incurred in the future…

Florida DUI Law

The Florida Legislature has regulated the practice of driving under the influence (or DUI) under Chapters 316 and 322 of the Florida Statutes. Chapter 316 deals with the criminal penalties for DUI while Chapter 322 deals with driver license restrictions resulting for a person who is convicted or who pleads guilty to DUI. For purposes of our discussion, we will focus solely on the criminal penalties relating to driving under the influence.

Under Florida Statute §316.193(1) a person is “guilty of the offense of driving under the influence” if the alcohol content of the person’s blood is over 0.08 grams of alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood F.S.§316.193(1)(b); or the alcohol content of the person’s breath is above 0.08 grams of alcohol per 210 liters of breath F.S.§316.193(1)(c). Moreover, the Statute further states that a person who is driving under the influence is strictly liable for the bodily injuries and/or deaths that person causes. Florida Statutes §316.193(3). In practice, what does this mean for someone who is DUI?

If a drunk driver injures or causes the death of a person in Florida while he/she is DUI, that driver will be criminally liable if the alcohol level in the driver’s blood or breath was in excess of the 0.08 gram threshold. Negligence of the driver is not a requirement under the statute. State v. Hubbard, 751 So.2d 552 (Fla., 1999). Establishing that the driver had in excess of 0.08 grams of alcohol is not always a simple task for the state attorney, as test validity must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Most often some type of test would have been administrated by the officer who was called to the scene of the accident or by hospital personal if the alleged subject is transported to a hospital.

Florida Statute §316.1932 specifically states that operators of vehicles in the State of Florida are “deemed to have given his or her consent to submit to an approved chemical test or physical test.” The statute further states that if a law enforcement officer “has reasonable cause to believe” that the operator of a motor vehicle “was driving or was in actual physical control of the motor vehicle within this state while under the influence of alcoholic beverages,” that officer can administer any chemically approved test on the driver of the vehicle to determine the alcohol level of the driver. As a result, tests are routinely administered by officers called to the scene of an accident when there is a suspicion that the driver was DUI. If the alcohol level surpasses the 0.08 threshold, the driver is charged under the criminal statute. A battery or manslaughter DUI conviction will also open the door for the personal injury lawyer to recover punitive damages for his/her client. Although the recovery of punitive damages is facilitated when a person is struck by a drunk driver, such damages are more difficult to obtain when a person is struck by a driver under the influence of other more dangerous toxic substances such as cocaine. It should be noted that insurance does not pay for punitive damages, and unless the person at-fault has personal assets, it may be difficult to recover punitive danages.

Driving Under the Influence of Cocaine

If a motor vehicle accident is caused by a driver under the influence of cocaine in Florida, the state attorney will have to establish that the cocaine affected the driver to the extent that his/her normal faculties were impaired. The State cannot simply rely on a test that would show that the amount of substance in the person’s blood or breath exceeded 0.08 grams. Sabree v. State, 978 So.2d 840 (Fla. App., 2008). Establishing that a driver’s faculties were impaired is a more difficult and costly task than simply relying on a breath test. The prosecutor will have to hire an expert to testify that the amount of toxic substance in the driver’s system actually impaired his/her normal faculties. This expert may be countered by an expert for the defense making it more difficult to convict drivers under the influence of narcotics. Videos of roadside testing often helps in these circumstances. Without a criminal DUI conviction, a personal injury lawyer may not be able to recover punitive damages when a driver was under the influence of these lethal drugs.

A driver under the influence of cocaine is much more dangerous than a driver under the influence of alcohol. The Florida Legislature should have made it easier to punish the drivers under the influence of these narcotics and not more difficult. It is imperative that the Legislature amend F.S. §316.193 to facilitate convictions for driving under the influence of cocaine and other lethal drugs to insure that Florida roads are safe. If you agree, please contact your State Representatives and State Senators and let them know how you feel.
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