Can You Pursue a Lawsuit Against a Drunk Driver?

Driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol is a serious offense. It’s punishable by jail time, hefty fines, and license suspension. If the local authorities are pursuing charges against a drunk driver, can victims of drunk driving accidents still file a lawsuit? 

Yes, you can. If you’re involved in an accident with a drunk driver, you should find a good car accident lawyer to seek compensation for your injuries. The criminal case against the drunk driver will not provide financial compensation for your injuries.

Understanding the difference between a criminal case and a civil case provides some context and insights for understanding your rights to seek compensation as a drunk driving victim.

Criminal Cases Versus Civil Cases

Criminal and civil cases share some similarities but also have many differences. Here’s a close look at some important differences between these cases.

  • The state or local municipality brings criminal cases against offenders. The offender’s actions and misconduct were something dangerous to society, which is why criminal charges apply in these circumstances.
  • Victims in criminal cases do not have to bring charges. That’s because local law enforcement will investigate and bring justice for the victim because the offender broke a law.
  • Individuals or entities file civil cases. The offender (defendant) failed to fulfill their legal duty, which caused harm to the plaintiff (person filing the case).
  • Civil cases are optional since the victim chooses whether to file a case against the offender.

Criminal and civil cases can have some cross over though. That’s because in some cases, like drunk driving, there are both civil and criminal cases. In these scenarios, the cases proceed independently of one another.

However, once a criminal case concludes and finds the defendant guilty, evidence from the case can help prove a civil case as well.

What Happens if the Drunk Driving Criminal Case is Dropped?

Sometimes, the criminal case against a drunk driver is dropped or lowered to a lesser charge. Despite this development in the criminal case, victims of drunk driving can continue their civil case.

Regardless of whether or not the defendant is convicted criminally, they could still be liable to pay your expenses if you were injured in the accident.

You might face more of a challenge in seeking punitive or additional damages if the criminal drunk driving charges are dropped. However, you should discuss your case with a Deerfield Beach attorney to ensure you know your rights as well as how to pursue your claim without adding punitive damages for drunk driving.  

Damages Drunk Driving Victims Can Seek

An important thing to note about a civil drunk driving case is that you may be able to pursue financial compensation from multiple parties. The parties named in your lawsuit will vary based on your specific circumstances. However, the parties might include:

  • The drunk driver
  • The vehicle’s owner
  • Individuals or establishments that provided the drunk driver alcohol
  • Other individuals who contributed to the accident (for example, if a third vehicle was involved)

Dram Shop Law

Florida’s dram shop law provides guidelines for when a victim of drunk driving can pursue damages against a bar or restaurant that served the drunk driver alcohol. The laws are fairly strict compared to those in other states. There are two specific circumstances when victims can seek damages from these establishments.

  1.   The drunk driver was under the legal drinking age of 21. It does not matter whether the bar or restaurant knew the person was under 21. The establishment has a responsibility to check the individual’s photo ID to inspect their ability to drink alcohol.
  2.   The bar or restaurant is aware that a person has an alcohol addiction but continues to serve them anyway. One way the establishment could be aware of this is if the person has visited the bar or restaurant before and exhibited behavior that showed they were not responsible when drinking.

Understanding Compensation 

Victims of drunk driving accidents can pursue both economic damages, general damages and punitive damages. Economic damages compensate you for any financial hardship tied to the case or the accident such as lost wages and medical bills.  General damages are meant to compensate you for your pain and suffering or permanent injuries. Punitive damages are just what they seem and are meant to punish or deter the wrongdoer from any action that is deemed to be grossly negligent or acted intentionally.  

How a Car Accident Lawyer Seeks Justice for Victims

A car accident lawyer can provide insights as to whether you have a case against a drunk driver. Navigating Florida’s no-fault system for car accidents can be challenging. And dealing with the feeling of being wronged after a drunk driving accident can be even more challenging.

Turn to the experienced team at Goldman & Daszkal. Our team of attorneys knows the intricacies of Florida car accident laws and will guide you in your pursuit of a civil case against a drunk driver. Schedule your free consultation now to learn more about how we can help.