Suing your Driver for Being Drunk?
Riding in a car as a passenger requires ceding control to the driver, and trusting that he/she will operate the vehicle in a safe and reasonably prudent manner. Of course, car accidents can happen no matter how careful someone is because people make mistakes. However, the situation changes if the driver of the car is intoxicated, and therefore, impaired in his/her ability to make rational and reasonable decisions and properly respond to hazards on the road. If an accident occurs due to a driver’s inebriated state, and a passenger in that same vehicle is injured, the injured passenger may have a legal claim for negligence if the drunk driver was at fault for the collision. A jury recently awarded a man injured in a car accident $2.1 million against the driver of the car he rode in as a passenger. The driver claimed he was not drinking, but is currently facing DUI charges after the vehicle flipped onto its side. Filing a personal injury lawsuit as a passenger presents different issues as compared against a driver suing for injuries. When the dynamic of potential intoxication is added, the determination of whether the driver was liable also requires a different approach. A discussion of suing for car accident injuries as a passenger, and how intoxication plays a role in the finding of liability, will follow below.
Suing for an Injury as a Passenger
Many lawsuits for car accident injuries are initiated by the driver of a vehicle involved in the crash, which means that in addition to deciding if the other driver was at fault for the accident, it is also necessary to ascertain if the injured driver also played a part in the collision. If both drivers hold some percentage of fault for the accident, the amount either driver can collect for an injury is reduced by how much he/she contributed to the occurrence of the accident. By contrast, when a passenger sues for negligence due to an injury sustained in a car accident, the mechanics of the case are easier because at least one of the drivers is most likely liable. Thus, the injured passenger would likely sue all the drivers involved in the accident, unless one is obviously not at fault, to ensure that at least one driver may be held responsible.
One important point for Florida car accident injuries is that Florida is a no-fault State. Anyone who owns a car in this State must have personal injury protection, or PIP coverage, that pays benefits if the policyholder is injured as either a driver or passenger. This means the injured party must first seek reimbursement for medical costs and lost wages from his/her insurance company, and cannot sue the drivers for damages in excess of their policy limits unless certain serious injuries are sustained. An experienced car accident personal injury attorney can advise on how the no-fault system affects a particular case.
Moving to the issue of intoxication, if the driver of a vehicle was allegedly drunk when the accident occurred, the injured party must still prove the driver was at fault. However, the results of a breathalyzer test or pending criminal charges will make it easier to show the driver’s actions were not reasonable. Assuming, though, the intoxicated driver is found to be at fault, the value of the injured party’s claim may be reduced if he/she knew the driver was drunk, and agreed to get into the car anyway. To reduce the damages the injured party could collect based on his/her own negligence of knowingly in riding in a car with a drunk driver, the defendant would need to demonstrate the plaintiff actually knew about the excessive drinking. Statements by the defendant that he/she was sober and able to competently drive could challenge the claim that the injured party knew the risk he/she was taking.
Contact a Personal Injury Attorney
Injuries from a car accident can significantly affect a person’s life. If you were the victim of a car accident, do not delay in consulting with an experienced personal injury attorney about possible legal action in your case. The Miami law firm of Pita Weber Del Prado is available to evaluate the merits of your case, and help you get the money you deserve faster. Contact us for a free consultation.