Plantation liquor liability attorney Rick Ellsley
Stands ready to hold the negligent responsible
Due to the inherently dangerous nature of intoxicated driving, both criminal and civil court consequences may arise from a DUI-related accident. Most people know drunk drivers can be subjected to penalties for their unsafe behavior. However, many are unaware that in some cases, entities that serve alcohol to drunk drivers may also be legally responsible for DUI injury victims' injuries. Plantation personal injury lawyers sometimes pursue compensation for accident victims from third parties. Florida's dram shop law allows accident victims to file a civil court claim against third parties who supplied alcohol to the drunk driver.
History of dram shop laws
In 18th Century England, gin could be purchased and consumed by the "dram," which was a spoonful. Dram shops were taverns, bars and similar businesses that sold drams of gin. Today, dram shop laws apply to businesses that sell alcohol to people who cause accidents and resulting injuries while under the influence of alcohol. In the U.S. today, these laws generally hold businesses liable if they serve alcohol to adults who are visibly intoxicated and later cause injuries in an accident. These laws also hold businesses responsible if they serve alcohol to minors who cause injuries in an alcohol-related accident.
Dram laws in Plantation
Florida's dram shop laws are more limited than similar laws in other states. There are two components to Florida's law. A business is liable for a DUI accident victim's injuries if it unlawfully and willfully sells or furnishes alcohol to a person who is 1) habitually addicted to alcohol or 2) under the legal drinking age. Potential third parties who may be liable for accident victims' injuries are:
- bar owners
- other alcohol vendors
In the past, Florida's dram shop law included individuals who serve alcohol at private gatherings. While private hosts may be liable under other laws, they are not included as potentially liable third parties in the dram shop law.
Possible damages under the dram shop law
Third parties that are liable under Florida's dram shop law could be ordered to compensate DUI accident victims for medical expenses, lost wages and emotional damages. Accident victims who suffer minor injuries in a related DUI accident may require short-term treatment and incur massive medical expenses. These expenses may include:
- initial medical examination
- diagnostic imaging
- slights, splints and medical braces
- chiropractic care
- physical therapy
- other short-term treatment
In addition to medical expenses, people who have less severe injuries may be required to take a few days or weeks off from work to recover. They may miss days at work for medical appointments. Third parties that are liable under Florida's dram shop law may be required to compensate DUI accident victims for these expenses.
Accident victims who are injured more severely in DUI accidents often are entitled to additional damages. Victims may require more extensive treatments like surgery or long-term physical rehabilitation and care. If the accident causes paralysis, brain injury, loss of a limb, chronic pain or another condition that results in partial or full disability, the victim will likely require support to help them complete day-to-day tasks. Injured parties who have chronic pain, full or partial disability often are unable to return to work full-time; therefore, they most often receive compensation for future lost earnings. Businesses that are liable under Florida's dram shop law may be required to pay accident victims for their current and future lost wages, current and future medical expenses in addition to compensating victims and possibly certain members of the victim's family for pain and suffering, mental anguish and loss of consortium.
Punitive damages under Florida's dram shop law
Businesses that behave especially egregiously in supplying alcohol to a DUI perpetrator identified by the state dram shop law may be ordered to pay punitive damages. For example, a bar that knowingly serves minors and gives them discounts for being underage would likely be ordered to pay punitive damages. These damages are assigned at the court's discretion. Unlike compensatory damages, punitive damages are ordered for the purpose of punishing the defendant. Courts also order defendants to pay punitive damages to discourage the defendant and others from engaging in such behavior. Although punitive damages are not intended to compensate the victim for his or her losses, courts ultimately award punitive damages to the injured party.
Florida specifies elements the plaintiff must prove to prompt the court to award punitive damages. The plaintiff's attorney must establish the defendant was guilty of intentional misconduct or gross negligence.
Drunk drivers are primarily liable in DUI accidents
In DUI accidents, liability primarily lies with the driver who caused the accident. The drunk driver is the individual who consumed alcohol and drove the vehicle that struck the other party and caused injury. If a court does not find that a third party is liable under the dram shop law, the injured party may still prevail in a claim against the drunk driver. A Plantation personal injury lawyer can help accident victims determine who is liable for their injuries and file a claim accordingly.
Contacting an injury lawyer for DUI cases
In the event of a drunk driving accident, victim and their families should immediately contact a Plantation personal injury lawyer. Florida imposes a four-year statute of limitations in DUI civil cases. Retaining counsel early in the process allows them time to gather critical evidence, develop a legal strategy, represent the accident victim and provide legal counsel to help the victim make informed decisions. Contacting the attorney early will afford the victim's lawyer more time to do important tasks that may help the victim prevail in his or her claim.
Attorney Rick Ellsley is available to help DUI accident victims understand their rights more thoroughly. Contact The Ellsley Law Firm today to receive a free case evaluation. We will fight on your behalf for the compensation you deserve.