Nearly 30 percent of deadly car wrecks in Florida are attributable to drunk drivers. That percentage translates to nearly 700 car crash deaths caused by drunk driving in the state of Florida. To our team of Miami car accident lawyers, that is 700 deaths too many.
Statistics from Mothers Against Drunk Driving reveals that someone is seriously injured by a drunk driver almost every 90 seconds and an average of 28 people die as a result of drunk driving accidents.
How Florida Punishes Drunk Drivers
If you are charged with drunk driving in Florida, you are looking at a third-degree felony. This means you are probably going to be jailed for some period of time. In fact, according to section 316.193 (2)(a) 2, 4(b), (6)(j) of the Florida Code, a first-time conviction can result in at least six months in jail. If your blood alcohol level is higher than a 0.15, you are looking at a possible nine-month jail sentence.
When it comes to jail time, probation, loss of driving privileges, etc. those are punishments in the criminal arena. If you or a loved one was seriously injured by a drunk driver, you also have the right to pursue restitution in the civil arena through a personal injury claim (or wrongful death claim if you lost a loved one in a drunk driving wreck). In addition to pursuing restitution for medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering, a plaintiff can pursue “punitive damages” under Florida Statute 768.762. Punitive damages are an additional level of compensatory damages meant to compensate you and send a signal to the at-fault driver (and the public at large) that drunk driving will not be tolerated.
To get punitive damages, a jury must find, based on clear and convincing evidence, that the at-fault driver was personally guilty of intentional misconduct or gross negligence. A defendant may be held liable for punitive damages only if the trier of fact, based on clear and convincing evidence, finds that the defendant was personally guilty of intentional misconduct or gross negligence. Intentional misconduct is defined as the drunk driver having “actual knowledge of the wrongfulness of the conduct.” In most drunk driving personal injury cases, you will not be focusing on intentional misconduct. Most drunk drivers do not intentionally become intoxicated with the intent of causing a deadly car crash.
Instead, your punitive damage claim will likely be based on gross negligence. According to Florida law, gross negligence means that the at-fault driver’s conduct was “so reckless or wanting in care that it constituted a conscious disregard or indifference to the life, safety, or rights of persons exposed to such conduct.” This is where most personal injury punitive damage claims are based. The drunk driver’s behavior was careless and showed a complete indifference to the safety of others.
Contact an Experienced Miami Car Accident Lawyer Today
If you or a loved one was seriously hurt by a drunk driver and you want to pursue punitive damages, contact Gerson & Schwartz P.A. today for a free case analysis. We take these cases very seriously. Since 2007, our Miami personal injury law firm has received the “Award of Honor” from Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) recognizing our commitment to help victims get justice for harm caused by intoxicated drivers. Contact us today by phone or e-mail.