Here, I’ll first talk about some of our settlements where a drunk driver caused our clients’ injury in Florida. You’ll get to see real settlement amounts for drunk driving accident cases.
After talking about these settlements, I give some important information about how the settlement value of a claimant’s case is affected if the careless driver was drunk.
$95K Settlement for Man Hit By Drunk Driver
A 44-year-old man was driving his car in South Florida. Another car, heading in the opposite direction, crashed head on into him.
GEICO insured the drunk driver who caused the accident.
According to the police report, the at-fault driver was driving the wrong way. She attempted to make a u-turn in the roadway. While doing so, she struck our client’s vehicle.
GEICO’s first offer was $17,500.
When the police questioned the at fault driver, they realized that she had been drinking alcohol prior to the crash. They conducted a DUI investigation.
The driver who caused the accident was arrested for violation of driving under the influence.
To increase the value of our client’s case, we requested the DUI file from the criminal courthouse. In any injury case against a drunk driver, you should request the entire DUI criminal file. It can have a treasure trove of information that may increase the value of your injury case.
The MRI films on my client’s spine showed 2 bulging discs and 2 herniated discs.
We argued that the crash caused or aggravated his herniated discs. He didn’t have steroid injections to his spine. Most of this $95,000 settlement was for his pain and suffering.
The final $95,000 settlement was for over 5 times GEICO’S the first offer. We settled without a lawsuit.
$33K Settlement (Head on Accident with DUI Driver)
On July 30, 2018, Shankeva was a passenger in her boyfriend’s (Ken) car. They were stopped at a red light in Holly Hill, Florida.
(Holly Hill is located in Volusia County, near Ormond Beach and Daytona Beach.)
Another driver (Terry) was heading in the opposite direction. Terry crashed into a car in front of the car that Shankeva was in. Here is a diagram of the DUI crash:
The car that Shankeva was in is labeled as V2 in the above diagram. Sadly, the driver of the car in front of Shankeva died in this accident.
Here is a photo of Shankeva being removed from the car after the crash:
Here is another photo of her on a stretcher:
Shankeva suffered a hip injury in this DUI accident. Specifically, she fractured her acetabulum.
The acetabulum is a concave surface of a pelvis. The head of the femur meets with the pelvis at the acetabulum, forming the hip joint.
Fortunately, Shankeva did not need surgery (on her hip). After this accident, Shankeva searched the internet for a car accident lawyer. She got a Free Consultation with me. After we spoke, she Shankeva quickly hired me.
Terry was charged with causing (or contributing) to the accident. Police arrested him. Specifically, toxicology and Microbiology reports from blood and urine analysis showed that Terry tested positive for drugs. In particular, he tested positive for Xanax and marijuana.
The full value of a case is higher if the at fault driver tests positive for drugs. This is because the jury can award punitive damages. That said, punitive damages are higher if the driver has a larger net worth. In other words, you cannot get a huge punitive damages award if the DUI driver is poor.
The DUI Driver Only Had $10K Per Person in BIL Coverage
Windhaven insured the car that the drunk driver was driving. The at fault driver had a $10,000 per person, $20,000 per accident in bodily injury liability (BIL) coverage. Windhaven typically sells car insurance policies with low BIL limits.
However, the personal representative (PR) of the person who was killed had a wrongful death claim. Additionally, Shankeva’s boyfriend also had a personal injury claim. Doctors put stitches on his head.
Windhaven hired an insurance defense attorney to represent the DUI driver. Windhaven made the decision to pay $10,000 to the PR of the estate of the woman who was killed in the accident.
This left $10,000 to be split between Shankeva and her boyfriend. I fought to get her $8,000. Her boyfriend’s attorney agreed to accept $2,000.
But that was not it. Fortunately, the car that Shankeva was in had $25,000 (per person) of uninsured motorist bodily injury coverage. State Farm was the insurer. State Farm paid me the $25,000 UM limits.
Shankeva was very happy with her $33,000 settlement. Specifically, she said:
I give you 5 stars because I know that you all push limits. That’s a great dedication for representation. Especially for me as your client.Shankeva
$30K Uninsured Motorist Insurance Settlement for Lady Hit by DUI Driver
Jessica (not real name) was a passenger in a car in Miami, Florida. A drunk driver crashed into the rear of the car that Jessica was in. After the accident, Jessica had back and neck pain.
The drunk driver did not have bodily injury liability (BIL) coverage. This happens way too often in South Florida (and really the entire state). This means that the drunk driver didn’t have insurance that would pay for Jessica’s medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering.
Jessica’s mom had passenger’s mother had uninsured motorist (UM) insurance with GEICO.
We made an uninsured insurance claim against GEICO. The GEICO stacking UM limits were $10,000. Since there were 3 cars on the policy, there was $30,000 in uninsured motorist bodily injury coverage available.
I got GEICO paid the $30,000 uninsured motorist insurance limits to settle the passenger’s injury case. This case is a perfect example of why having uninsured motorist coverage is so important.
$25K Settlement (Hit by Drunk Driver)
On July 3, 2014, Erika was a passenger in a car. Her friend (Wendy) was driving. The crash diagram is above.
I will refer to the car which Erika was a passenger in as the host car. Kenny was driving a car (Vehicle 1 in the diagram below) and making a left turn onto SW 8th street from SW 27 ave.
The host vehicle was traveling north on SW and 8 St. Kenny failed to yield the right of way and hit the host car. The host car then hit the building at 801 SW 27 Ave as a result. The host car is listed as Vehicle 2 in the diagram of the crash report (see image above).
Erika Went to Emergency Room Hospital Shortly After the Accident
Erika was taken from the crash scene as a passenger, not a patient, in an ambulance to Jackson Memorial Hospital (JMH). She was diagnosed with a cut to her leg as well as a lower leg contusion (bruise).
She did not require stitches. Erika was given a bandage for her leg. Erika was smart to take a picture (see below) of the cut to her leg very shortly after the accident.
She hired a Miami personal injury lawyer (me).
Erika me at my office. There, I took a picture of her lower leg (with a bandage on it).
Erika also took a picture of the bruising caused by her wearing her seat belt.
Lady Gets $17.5K Settlement (Drunk Driver Hits Her Car)
A drunk driver crashed into a lady’s car. The injured woman claimed that the accident caused the loss of her fetus.
Her OB/GYN doctor did not relate the death of the fetus to the auto accident.
Florida law allows you to make a claim for emotional damages of an expectant mother and father resulting from a stillbirth caused by the negligence of another.
The drunk driver’s insurer hired a doctor who said that he didn’t believe that the loss of my client’s fetus was related to the accident.
His opinion was that in the first trimester of pregnancy the uterus is well protected and insulated from the effects of blunt abdominal trauma. He said that the uterus is well within the bowl of the pelvis and below the pelvic brim.
Their doctor also said that the ultrasound at the emergency room revealed a normal, healthy single intrauterine pregnancy with a normal fetal heartbeat.
$14.1K Settlement for Passenger Hit By Drunk Driver
Joe (not real name) was in his early forties. He was a passenger in a car on SR 874 in Kendall, Florida. Kendall is in Miami-Dade County, Florida. Another driver was in a car behind them. Both cars were traveling in the same direction.
The other driver failed to slow down. Joe was rear ended by the other car.
The at-fault driver’s car had disabling damage. All things equal, a drunk driving accident case is better if the at fault car was disabled. This is because a jury has an easier time believing that you were injured in the accident.
The drunk driver’s airbag deployed. The at fault car was towed from the scene.
The at-fault driver was charged with DUI. An ambulance did not come to the accident scene.
At the hospital, he told the nurse that he had pain in his head, neck, back and both shoulders. He was treated in the hospital for a few hours. The hospital records said that he had no pain when he left the hospital.
After this rear end drunk driving accident, Joe looked for a Miami car accident lawyer. He found me. I gave him a free consultation. He hired me and I began protecting his rights.
MRI Reveals Disc Protrusion (Herniation)
The driver was found guilty of DUI by a criminal court. The passenger claimed a herniated disc, and received therapy from a chiropractor for months after the accident.
He had an MRI that revealed a L4-L5 focal left neural foraminal disc protrusion producing foraminal stenosis at the subarticular process.
His chiropractor said that he had a L4-L5 intervertebral disc herniation with narrowing of the left neuroforaminal stenosis.
His chiropractor also diagnosed him with a lumbosacral sprain/strain injury, and a lumbosacral nerve root injury.
A few months after the crash he saw a neurologist. The neurologist noted that he had muscle spasms in his lower back.
He was diagnosed with Post Concussive Vertigo. Vertigo is a sensation of feeling off-balance. The neurologist also diagnosed him with Lumbar Myofascitis.
A South Florida auto insurer insured the DUI driver. They paid us their $10,000 limits. State Farm was Joe’s UM insurer.
He did not want to sue State Farm. State Farm paid $4,100 to settle the case.
The total settlement was for $14,100.
$11,500 Settlement (Rear Ended by Drunk Driver)
A lady was driving her car in South Florida when a drunk driver rear ended her. A South Florida insurance company insured the drunk driver. The lady hired me after the accident.
State Farm was the underinsured motorist insurer. I settled her case for $11,500. She was very happy with the settlement.
$10K Settlement (Hit By Drunk Driver in Fort Lauderdale)
Here is a video about this settlement for a man hit by a drunk driver:
That video has over 100 comments on Youtube. Many of my replies to those comments contain useful information about drunk driving accident claims. I encourage you to look at those comments.
On April 22, 2018, my client was in his car and stopped at a light in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. A drunk driver (Jerry) hit him.
Here is the crash diagram:
This is a photo of my client’s car after the accident:
All things equal, the injured person will get a higher settlement if it was a side impact than if someone is rear ended by a drunk driver. This is because the case has more of an “excitement factor” to a jury.
The arrest record (the complaint affidavit) said that Jerry had an indication of alcohol influence and drug influence.
The complaint affidavit contains a probable cause affidavit which gives the basis for the arrest. Jerry refused to provide a breath sample.
DUI officer Carter made contact with Jerry and read him the Miranda Warning. The Miranda warning is the line that you hear in movies:
You have the right to remain silent, anything that you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney…
Why does the Miranda warning matter?
Because Florida’s accident report privilege prevents the injured person from using anything that the at fault driver says (to the police officer) in the injury case.
For example, let’s say that the at fault driver admits (to the officer) that he wasn’t paying attention when driving his car. In Florida, this can’t be used against him in the injured person’s lawsuit.
To make things worse, a traffic ticket can’t be used in the personal injury case. This is true even if the at fault driver is cited for causing the crash.
Are there any exceptions to Florida’s accident report privilege?
Yes, an exception is anything said after the at fault driver receives a Miranda warning.
Drunk Driver Was Given Miranda Warning, And Admits to Drinking and Drugging
Once the at fault driver is read a Miranda warning, anything that he says can be used against him in the injured person’s case. This is a big deal!
After reading the Miranda, Jerry admitted to driving the vehicle and hitting something. However, he wasn’t sure what he hit. Jerry also admitted to drinking 2 long island iced teas(an alcoholic drink). He also admitted to taking his Klonopin (a prescription drug).
While speaking with Jerry, Officer Carter said that his speech was slurred, and his eye lids were droopy. Carter could smell the obvious odor of an alcoholic beverage coming from his breath and person.
Based on his observations, Officer Carter believed that Jerry’s normal faculties were impaired while operating a motor vehicle. Thus, he asked if Jerry was willing to take the Standard Field Sobriety Tasks (SFST’s). Surprisingly, Jerry agreed.
In short, Jerry failed the field sobriety tasks. An officer took him to BSO Main Jail. He was charged with D.U.I. and issued these citations:
- Failure to use due care F.S.S. 316.185
– Crash leave scene w/o giving information F.S.S. 316.061-1
– D.U.I. first offense F.S.S. 316.193-2A2A
– D.U.I. property damage (2 counts) F.S.S. 316.193-3c1
The drunk driver was driving his mom’s car. GEICO insured his mom’s car. My client had neck and back pain.
He had at least one herniated disc in his neck and lower back.
In this injury case, it took GEICO 37 days from the date of accident to send us the check. GEICO paid us the owner’s $10,000 BIL insurance limits. Here is the actual settlement check:
State Farm insured my client’s car. My client got medical treatment within 14 days of the accident. Therefore, State Farm’s PIP insurance was required to pay up to $10,000 to his doctors and the MRI facility.
My client picked up his settlement check at my office. Here is a photo of us:
You can read more about this $10,000 settlement.
$24 Million Verdict for Husband (Wife Hit and Killed By Drunk Driver)
This is not my case. On March 18, 2012, Alanna Demella was a guest at the Riverside Hotel. The hotel is located in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
The Las Olas Holding Company owned the hotel. However, it was doing business as Riverside Hotel.
Alanna was sitting at the poolside cabana. While sitting at the cabana, Rosa Kim, struck Alanna with Rosa’s car. Rosa’s car left the roadway, and drove onto the hotel’s premises. Sadly, Alanna died.
Rosa Kim was driving while under the influence to the extent of three times the legal limit.
Rosa apparently failed to even attempt to avoid hitting a cabana at the hotel. Alanna was survived by her husband, Michael Demella.
Michael, as personal representative of the estate of his wife (Alanna), sued the hotel. He also sued the drunk driver.
Michael sued for mental pain and suffering, loss of companionship, and loss of support. If a drunk driver hits and kills your spouse in Florida, you can always sue for your mental pain and suffering. (This assume that the drunk driver’s negligence caused the death.)
Michael also sued for loss of net accumulations, funeral expenses or medical bills.
He claimed that there was a curve on the road that was a dangerous condition giving rise to a duty with respect to people, like his wife, who were inside Riverside’s cabana.
Specifically, Michael claimed that Riverside should have built a sturdier cabana to protect from the allegedly separate risk posed by the road.
On June 20, 2014, Michael’s lawyer sent to the hotel’s attorney an offer to settle for $750,000. The hotel didn’t accept the offer.
The Husband Settled With the Drunk Driver
On December 11, 2014, Michael settled with the drunk driver. Thereafter, his attorney dismissed the drunk driver from the lawsuit. I assume that the drunk driver’s insurance company paid the settlement. I also assume the drunk driver had small bodily injury liability insurance limits. Unfortunately, this is often the case in Florida.
On June 23, 2015, a Broward County jury decided that the hotel’s negligence was 15% responsible for Alanna’s death. The jury found the drunk driver 85% at fault.
The jury awarded Michael $22 million for his loss of his wife’s companionship and protection, and for mental pain and suffering from her death. Additionally, the jury awarded him $2 million for his future loss of support and services from his wife’s death.
The jury awarded $73,742 for medical or funeral expenses due to her injury and death. He was also awarded $9,156 for his loss of prospective net accumulations to the estate.
The total verdict was for $24,057,283.
Since the hotel was 15% at fault, it only was liable for 15% of the verdict. This means that the hotel owed Michael $3.6 million.
Predictably, the hotel appealed the verdict.
The bad news for the husband?
On July 19, 2017, the appeals court said that the hotel did not owe a duty to Michael’s wife in this case. Thus, it took away the verdict. The husband gets no compensation from the hotel.
Even if the appeals court found that the hotel had a duty, it still may have chopped down the $22 million pain and suffering award. $22 million for a spouse’s pain and suffering is extremely high.
Jury Awards $244K to Family of Man Killed By Drunk Driver (Driver Gets $75K)
This isn’t my case. Persaud v. Cortes, Fla: Dist. Court of Appeals, 5th Dist. 2017 arose from a November 2008 accident. Persaud’s vehicle rear-ended a vehicle operated by Santiago and occupied by 20 year old Joshua Batista, Barbara Cortes’s son.
Santiago’s vehicle then struck a third vehicle before flipping into an adjacent median. The accident resulted in Batista’s death, and significant injury to Santiago. Persaud received two convictions for DUI manslaughter.
Barbara Cortes, as personal representative of the estate of Joshua Batista, and on behalf of his survivors, and Andrew Santiago, sued Visnu Persaud.
The survivors were:
- Barbara Cortes, as surviving mother of Joshua Batista
- Hector Batista, parent and father of Joshua Batista
- Lorenzo Batista, son of Joshua Batista
Cortes amended the lawsuit to include a claim for punitive damages.
She claimed that at the time of the crash, Persaud had consumed a large amount of alcohol – resulting in a .302 percent blood alcohol reading.
The jury awarded a verdict of $244,419 for Cortes’ wrongful death lawsuit.
Each Of the Decedent’s Parents Only Got $30K for Pain and Suffering
The jury awarded Barbara Cortes, as surviving mother of Joshua Batista, $20,000 in past pain and suffering, and $10,000 in future pain and suffering. They awarded Hector Cortes, as surviving father of Joshua Batista, the same amount.
This is a very small award for pain and suffering. This is because the average pain and suffering award for a parent whose minor child is killed is around $4.1 million. At least that is what I’ve seen after reviewing many verdicts.
The jury awarded Lorenzo Batista, as son of Joshua Batista, $25,000 in past loss of parental companionship, instruction and guidance and pain and suffering. They awarded $150,000 for the future loss of parental companionship, instruction and guidance (and pain and suffering).
This is also a small award. This is because the average pain and suffering award for a minor child whose parent is killed much higher.
The jury awarded funeral expenses of $5,419.
I don’t know the relationship between the decedent and his survivors.
Perhaps the survivors didn’t have a close relationship with the decedent, Batista. This is just a guess. Or perhaps the jury was conservative.
The jury awarded $75,144.35 for Santiago’s injuries. ($30,000 was for past pain and suffering; zero for future pain and suffering; $44,144.35 for past medical expenses.)
Punitive Damages Verdict Can’t Be So High As Too Financially Destroy the Drunk Driver
Persaud’s mother testified that she sees Persaud once a month and that he has no money, no bank account, no property of any kind, and, as of 2008, no employment, with no expectation of future employment.
In a 2010 deposition, Persaud testified that, from 2008 until the time of the deposition, he lived in his mother’s home.
Despite this testimony, the jury ultimately awarded punitive damages of $750,000 (Cortes) and $500,000 (Santiago).
The court ordered a new trial only on punitive damages because the court failed to instruct the jury that they shouldn’t award an amount of punitive damages that would financially destroy the drunk driver. Thus, the court believed that a $1.25 million punitive damages verdict would financially destroy the Persaud.
The injured person’s punitive damages claim is worth much less if the drunk driver has no money.
$3.8 Million Verdict for Mother (Daughter Was Killed by Drunk Driver)
This isn’t my case. Maria Valle died at age 33 as a result of an auto collision caused by Hood while he was intoxicated.
In Florida, you’re not entitled to money for pain and suffering for the death of a sibling.
Before trial, Hood pled guilty to D.U.I. manslaughter. He was in prison during the trial.
Hood was going to appear in court in shackles. Valle’s attorney was concerned that this was part of a tactic to cause the jurors to think that Hood had no money.
Thus, Valle’s attorney agreed to drop her punitive damages claim in return for Hood’s attorney agreeing to several things.
The stipulations that:
- Hood drove the vehicle that collided with the vehicle in which Maria Valle was a passenger;
- The collision caused her death;
- Hood’s blood alcohol level was .235% (and the legal limit was .08%);
- Hood was legally intoxicated at the time of the incident; and
- He was at fault at the time of the accident.
Hood’s attorney also agreed to let the jury hear that on the night of the collision in which Valle died, Hood had been in two other accidents before that collision.
The jury awarded a total of $3.8 million for the mom’s pain and suffering.
The breakdown was $2 million for past pain and suffering from the date of the accident through trial. $1.8 million was awarded for the mother’s pain and suffering for the rest of her life.
Drunk driving accident cases are usually worth more because the jury is typically angry at the drunk driver. Thus, they usually award more money for pain and suffering.
State Farm insured the drunk driver, Hood.
The bad news?
Drunk Driver Only Had a $10K Insurance Policy
He only had $10,000 in bodily injury liability (BIL) coverage on his car insurance policy.
The personal representative was also awarded $24,707.79 in case costs. State Farm had to pay the $10,000 BIL insurance limits and the $24,707.79 case costs.
I don’t know if Valle pursued a bad faith case against State Farm. She would’ve had a bad faith case is State Farm waited to long to pay the $10,000 BIL limits. Alternatively, if Valle requested reasonable settlement release language, and State Farm didn’t agree, this could be bad faith.
A bad faith case would turn this case into a collectible million dollar case.
If Someone is Driving Drunk and Causes an Accident, Does This Increase the Injured Person’s Case Value?
Yes, it often does. In Hines v. GEICO Indemnity Company, Dist. Court, MD Florida 2016, a federal judge said that:
the fact that Cordova was driving under the influence when she caused this accident—could cause a jury to increase a compensatory damages award.
If you’re hit by a drunk driver, does getting surgery increase the case value?
Yes, if the drunk driver’s negligence caused your injury.
Are Drunk Driver Cases Involving Uber and Lyft Different?
The biggest difference is that there will likely be more insurance coverage available through Uber or Lyft.
For example, if the Uber or Lyft driver has the app on, but isn’t engaged in a ride, the injured person will be entitled to up to $50,000 per person.
If the Uber or Lyft driver is engaged in a ride, all the injured people will be entitled to up to $1 million. They still have to prove their case.
On the other hand, most cars in Florida don’t carry much bodily injury liability (BIL) insurance.
Thus, all things equal, Uber and Lyft cases involving a drunk driver are better than other drunk driver accident cases.
Which Insurance Companies Pay the Best if a Drunk Driver Hits You?
Rental Car Insurance Might Not Cover Drunk Drivers in Florida
Unfortunately, rental cars in Florida are only required to $10,000 in BIL insurance coverage.
However, sometimes the renter purchases supplemental liability insurance (“SLI”). SLI coverage is usually in the amount of $1 million or so. It covers injuries to others.
Thus, this coverage can be very valuable for someone who is badly injured.
This SLI coverage is optional and beyond the Florida minimum statutorily mandated liability limits. See generally §§ 324.021(9)(a)2; 627.7263(1)
Rental car SLI insurance doesn’t cover drunk drivers if the rental agreement says that the vehicle may not be used while the driver is under the influence of alcohol or drugs. For the exclusion to apply, it must clearly say that driving under the influence of alcohol voids (or deprives) the drunk driver of coverage.
This was the main issue in the case of T.H.E. Ins. Co. v. Dollar Rent-A-Car Sys., Inc., 900 So.2d 694 (Fla. 5th DCA 2005). This isn’t my case.
While McGrath operated the rented vehicle, he was involved in an accident that resulted in the death of his fiancée.
The personal representative of the decedent (person who was killed) sued McGrath. I assume that “survivors” were either the decedent’s minor children, or her parents. They are the family members who can make a claim if the decedent wasn’t married at the time of the death.
McGrath asked for coverage from T.H.E. Insurance Company.
T.H.E. claimed that McGrath was intoxicated at the time of the accident. Thus, it claimed that he violated the terms of the rental agreement and voided the SLI coverage.
The appeals court in this case said that the SLI coverage was excess liability insurance coverage. Thus, the SLI insurer was allowed to exclude accidents caused by drunk driving.
Sadly, the decedent’s family wasn’t able to get compensation from the optional rental car insurance that was purchased. If there was coverage, T.H.E. insurance company may have paid the limits. This may have been $1 million or so. But without coverage, they won’t see that money.
If the At Fault Driver Refused the Breath Test, Does This Affect the Value of the Claimant’s Case?
Yes. The jury gets to hear that the at fault driver refused to submit to a blood-alcohol test. This increases the value of the injured person’s case because he or she can sue for punitive damages.
In addition, juries often award more money for pain and suffering if they hear that the at fault driver refused to submit to a blood-alcohol test. BIL insurance adjusters know this and thus often offer more money to settle the personal injury case.
Allowing the jury to hear that the careless driver didn’t submit to a blood-alcohol test doesn’t violate the Fifth Amendment.
Usually, what a driver tells a police officer after the accident is privileged. Thus, the jury won’t get to hear what was said. Florida Statute 316.066.
However, Florida Statute 316.066 does not prevent the admission into evidence of the careless driver’s refusal to submit to a blood-alcohol test. The case that says this is Evans v. Hamilton, 885 So. 2d 950 (Fla. 4th DCA 2004). That isn’t my case.
How Long Does It Take to Get a Settlement if You’re Hit By a Drunk Driver?
First, there is no guarantee that you’ll get a settlement. There are certain factors that determine how long a injury case takes to settle.
The fact that the at fault driver was drunk is a major fact. It is one of many factors that affect settlement value.
For this reason, drunk driving cases tend to settle quicker than other car accident cases.
Insurance companies don’t want to expose their insured drivers to punitive damages.
Will You Get a Higher Settlement if a Drunk Driver Hits You?
To answer this question, let’s look at how juries award money in a drunk driving accident cases.
Let’s say that a drunk driver hits someone. The other person is injured. His or her personal injury case goes to trial.
In Florida, the trend is for the drunk driver to admit liability. Drunk drivers do this to keep the jury from hearing about their drunk driving. They know that juries who hear about drunk driving tend to award the injured person more money for pain and suffering.
Just look at some of my personal injury settlements. Some of my biggest settlements were for people who a drunk driver hit.
If the drunk driver admits liability, the trial is split into two phases.
The first phase is for compensatory damages. In this phase, a jury gets to decides how much to give the injured person for medical bills, lost wages and pain and suffering.
If the drunk driver admits liability, the jury will not get to hear any evidence of his drunk driving. GEICO General Insurance Company v. Dixon, 209 So. 3d 77 (Fla. 3d DCA 2017).
If the drunk driver admits fault, then the case then goes to the second phase. The second phase is the punitive damages phase.
The jury only gets to hear evidence of drunk driving in the punitive damages phase. That said, insurance companies have a duty to settle personal injury cases when they could and should.
What happens if the injured person agrees to settle all claims against the drunk driver, but the drunk driver’s insurer fails to settle when it could and should?
In this scenario, the insurance company is in bad faith. The insurance company can then owe the entire verdict.
$18.8 Million Verdict for Man Hit by Drunk Driver (Paralysis)
This is not my case. In April 2006, Kincaid drove his automobile out of a parking lot in Martin County, Florida. When doing so, he drove into the path of Vanzyl’s motorcycle.
As result of the accident, Vanzyl was placed in an intensive care unit. Being in the intensive care unit increases the full value of the case. Vanzyl remained partially paralyzed.
Vanzyl hired a motorcycle accident lawyer.
Vanzyl ultimately received a $16 million dollar judgment. With this judgment secured, Vanzyl got Kincaid to agree to bring this bad-faith claim against Allstate in exchange for a delay and possible satisfaction of the judgment.
Allstate argued that it did all that it could to try to enter into a motorcycle accident settlement for the $100,000 limits.
On July 30, 2014, a federal appeals court said that Allstate did not act in bad faith. Therefore, the motorcycle rider will likely be limited to Allstate’s $100,000 insurance policy.
Unfortunately, a $100,000 motorcycle accident settlement isn’t enough compensation for being partially paralyzed.
Do Pedestrians Hit by a Drunk Driver Have a Good Case?
Yes, if the pedestrian was injured.
The pedestrian’s best case is if he or she was in the crosswalk. Then, it’s much tougher for the drunk driver to put fault on the pedestrian for causing the crash.
Pedestrians hit by a drunk driver tend to get more money than settlements where a sober driver hits a pedestrian.
If a Drunk Driver Hits You While You’re On a Motorcycle, Is Your Case Better?
On the other hand, if the injured person is in a car, he or she likely needs a permanent injury to get compensation for pain and suffering.
Will the Crime Victims’ Compensation Fund Pay You if You’re Hit by a Drunk Driver?
Maybe. If you apply to the Florida Victim Compensation Program, it may pay you compensation if you suffered a permanent disability.
It may pay you for wage loss, loss of support.
It may pay or reimburse you for funeral/burial, medical/dental treatment, and mental health counseling expenses; as well as prescriptions, eyeglasses, dentures, or a prosthetic device lost, damaged, or required because of the crime.
Crime Payments accepted by in-state providers on behalf of victims are payment-in-full per Florida Statute. This is good if there is limited BIL insurance or uninsured motorist (UM) insurance available in your case.
Claimants who are determined eligible for the Victim Compensation Program may be exempt from the insurance deductible and co-payment provisions of their insurance policy(ies). Thus, you may not have to meet your PIP or health insurance deductible.
Total victim compensation benefits cannot exceed the maximum award amount of $25,000 ($50,000 for catastrophic injury) per claim. Limits below the maximum may apply to specific benefits, which may be reduced without prior notice to the award recipient based on availability of funding.
Some Felons Won’t Qualify of the Victim Compensation Program
Persons who have been adjudicated as an habitual felony offender, habitual violent offender, or violent career criminal, and persons who have been adjudicated guilty of a forcible felony offense are not eligible to receive benefits.
Forcible felonies include treason; murder; manslaughter; sexual battery; carjacking; home-invasion robbery; robbery; burglary; arson; kidnapping; aggravated assault, battery or stalking; aircraft piracy; unlawful throwing, placing, or discharging of a destructive device or bomb; and any other felony which involves the use or threat of physical force or violence against any individual. Florida Statute 776.08
Can You Get Restitution in the DUI Driver’s Criminal Case?
Possibly. A court shall order restitution to the victim for damage or loss caused directly or indirectly by the defendant’s offense. § 775.089(1)(a), Fla. Stat.
If the DUI driver argues that your amount of restitution is wrong, the burden is on the state to prove the amount of the loss by the greater weight of the evidence. §775.089(7), Fla. Stat.
Restitution can include property damage and personal injury.
It can also include the victims’ psychiatric and psychological care. Johnson v. State, 27 So. 3d 211 (Fla. 2d DCA 2010), and Section 775.089(2)(a), Florida Statutes.
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