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Hit By A Drunk Driver – Here’s What You Should Do

If you’ve been hit by a drunk driver, the first thing to do is make sure that everyone involved in the accident is okay.

Once you’re physically able to, it’s important to seek legal representation because the longer you wait, the less chance you have of receiving proper compensation for your injuries and losses.

You’re probably not researching this from the scene of your accident, but we’re going to step you through what you need to as if you are. If you’ve been involved in an accident with a drunk driver then here are the steps you should take.

1. Notify the Authorities & Your Insurance Company

Immediately following the accident, make sure you and your passengers are okay and get to a safe place FIRST.

Next, notify the police and emergency services. Even if the person who hit you has driven off and you’re okay, you need the police to file and document the accident. Without documentation, you won’t be able to file an insurance claim and without that, you’re likely to never receive any kind of due compensation. 

Also, if the individual who hit you has fled the scene, notifying the police immediately can prevent another accident from occurring. Drunk drivers are more likely to flee the scene of an accident because they’re intoxicated. Poor judgement and trying to avoid the consequences of driving drunk are both factors here.

Drunk drivers might choose to leave the scene on foot instead of driving away – how they choose to leave doesn’t matter. Call the police.

You’ll also need to notify your insurance company. Some people choose to do this at the scene of the accident and others wait until they get home or to a more calm location. When you decide to call might depend on the severity of your accident, but you need to call.

Your Cooperation is Key

Cooperate with the authorities and your insurance company. Try to remember every detail of what happened. If the driver is no longer on the scene, try to remember key details like a partial license plate, a make, and model of the vehicle, what the driver was wearing, what the driver looked like, where the damage on his or her vehicle might be, etc.

The emergency crew services will ask you on the scene if you’re injured. Always get a proper checkup on the scene because right after an accident, you might not know if you’re injured. You probably have adrenaline pumping through your veins and you could be seriously injured without even knowing it.

Cooperating also means exchanging information with other drivers involved in the incident. Exchange insurance information, get their full name, their phone number and any other details that would help you when the authorities arrive.

You may take your own photographs of the scene and try to detail if there were any witnesses that could also testify to the events of the crash.

Locate A Personal Injury Attorney

After you’ve been cleared and are okay to return home, you need to call a personal injury attorney near you.

Simply ask for a free consultation to get legal advice, because you’re under no obligation to commit to an attorney based on a phone call asking for guidance. Get legal advice based on your case and proceed from there.

A Few Things To Know About Auto Insurance

No-Fault Insurance Law

At the time of writing this, it’s estimated that a dozen states participate in what’s known as the no-fault law. This is an insurance practice that covers all of your injuries and medical bills. Insurance companies are legally obligated in these states to covering all of your injury claims. However, some states will have limits on the amount of compensation you can claim and what injuries they will cover. Your insurance agent should be able to go through all of these claims or limitations in detail.

A few of the states that participate in the no-fault law are as follows: New York, Pennsylvania & Florida

Lost Compensation

Make sure to ask your insurance agent about lost compensation if you’re going to be out of work due to personal injuries. In no-fault insurance states, it’s the obligation of insurance companies to pay a portion of your lost wages and on average, people usually end up seeing 75% of their lost pay. Some companies offer lost wages as a result of your injury but this varies based on company policy and they’re under no obligation to do so. It’s also important to have health insurance coverage because, without that, some insurance companies will drastically limit what you’re eligible for earning in terms of compensation overall.

State laws vary, so talk to your accident attorney about the laws in your state.

Multiple Injured Persons

If there are multiple people that were injured on the scene, you want to follow the same procedure as you would for one injured individual but this is where the laws get a bit tricky. Insurance companies at this point will limit the number of claims each person can make and that limitation will become much lower for each person. There’s no sure way to tell how much coverage each person will get as it goes from case to case.

Is DUI Considered a Felony in Florida?

alcohol abuse, drunk driving and people concept - close up of ma

Criminal law provides for a much more severe punishment for a felony than a misdemeanor.

Usually, a misdemeanor imposes no jail sentence or a relatively short one, whereas a felony carries a lengthy term of incarceration.

A DUI conviction in Florida is more often charged as a misdemeanor, but it can be a felony under certain aggravated circumstances.

In Florida, the number of prior convictions can determine whether it is a felony or misdemeanor. When there is a third conviction or more, it is a felony of the third degree. When the driver is in an accident involving serious bodily injury to a victim, it is a third-degree felony. When death occurs, it is likely to be charged as DUI manslaughter, which is a second-degree felony.

The seriousness of a DUI felony conviction was highlighted when a Circuit Court judge recently sentenced a Florida woman to 15 years in prison for a DUI manslaughter conviction that involved a fatal crash on Interstate 95 on December 19, 2016. Authorities charged the 30-year-old woman with driving the wrong-way on the Interstate when she crashed head-on into a vehicle driven by a 91-year-old Florida woman. The victim died in the accident.

A jury found the accused guilty in December 2017, and the court recently sentenced her to the maximum 15-year term. She had a blood alcohol count (“BAC”) of 0.153, which was almost twice the legal limit of 0.08.  There were other aggravating factors, including that she had at least two prior DUI convictions in which she had been driving the wrong way, with one of them being just a year earlier.

But most cases are not as severe.

Nonetheless, even as a misdemeanor, the overall impact of a drunk driving conviction can be substantial. There is no mandatory jail time for a first offense, but there may be other serious consequences.

For example, the court may order that an Ignition Interlock Device (IID) be installed on the defendant’s vehicle. The court can do this at its own discretion, but the IID is mandatory for a six-month period if the defendant had a BAC of more than 0.15 percent. The device essentially prevents the ignition from engaging where the driver’s BAC exceeds 0.08 percent.

Second and third DUI convictions carry significantly longer IID placements.  In addition, jail terms are mandatory and progressively higher for second and third offenses. One can also expect to incur substantial fines and court costs, along with a driver’s license suspension.

The DUI laws in Florida are complex.

Potential defenses may result in a reduced charge, a sentence of probation, or even the dismissal of all or some of the charges. If you or a loved one have been involved in an accident with a drunk driver, then you need to speak with an experienced attorney. 

An attorney with experience in handling drunk driving accident cases will be adept in securing a more favorable outcome. 

Questions About DUI-Related Wrongful Death In Florida

Drunk driving remains an epidemic across the United States. Each day, people drive under the influence of alcohol almost 300,000 times, but remarkably fewer than 4,000 are actually arrested. Sadly, every two minutes in this country, a person is injured or worse due to an intoxicated driving car accidents.

If someone in your family has been tragically killed in a drunk driving-related crash, you should contact an experienced wrongful death attorney and find out what steps you should be taking in the days, weeks, and even months that follow this horrific event.

Here are some frequently asked questions that should hopefully help you better understand drunk driving and wrongful death situations:

    • Is Florida a no-fault state? — Yes, Florida is a no-fault state when it comes to various automobile accidents. This law requires an insurance policy to include PIP (personal injury protection) insurance coverage.
    • Does this fall under criminal or civil law? — Wrongful death law falls under the classification of civil law, also know as a tort law. There are, however, varying standards that can be used in different cases and legal situations.
    • How often do intoxication-related accidents happen in Florida? — According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), an average of 117,000 crashes occur each year in Florida that are attributed to a driver operating the vehicle with a blood-alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08% or higher. Those accidents result in more than 1,200 fatalities and 50,000 injuries annually across Florida. Additionally, of those 117,000 crashes, 111,500 of them involved drivers who had a BAC of 0.10% or higher.
    • How much do these accidents cost Florida taxpayers? — These unfortunate DUI-related car crashes cost Florida taxpayers an estimated $11 billion — including $6.6 billion due to loss of life.
  • What types of damages can a family who lost a loved one recover? — The types of damages a victim’s family can recover can vary and every case is different, which is why it’s imperative to consult with an attorney immediately following a drunk driving-related death.

If you want to learn more about these difficult legal proceedings or would like to speak with a Tampa attorney about your case, contact Herron Law right away.

Roadside Sobriety Tests – What To Know About Them

Roadside Sobriety Tests

The Roadside Tests, known in the legal community as “Field Sobriety Exercises” were developed as a means for testing a person’s level of impairment by alcohol or drugs. The common misconception is that these are “pass” or “fail” tests. The reality is that the Officer decides whether or not you “pass’ or “fail” based solely on his/her opinion. The standard is whether or not the subject’s “normal faculties” are impaired. Florida law defines normal faculties as the ability to see, hear, walk, talk, act in emergencies, make judgements, judge distances, drive an automobile, and in general, to perform the many mental and physical tasks of our everyday lives.

The Officer will make these tests look easy during his/her demonstration, but beware, the Officer has practiced these tests hundreds or even thousands of times. These tests are “divided attention tasks” and are very difficult to perform under any circumstance. The explanations come fast, the pressure to perform is intense, there are no opportunities to practice and the price for failure is an arrest.

There are 6 basic tests which are conducted by Law Enforcement Officers, they are:

The 9 Step Walk and Turn

This one requires the subject to stand “at attention” with one foot in front of the other while the instructions are read.

Little does the subject know that he/she is already being graded by the officer. Then the Officer says to start and the subject must walk exactly 9 steps on a straight line, heel to toe, arms by their side, complete a very specific turn, and then back to the start position.

The Officer is looking for the following:

  • Did the subject have difficulty following the instructions?
  • Did the subject do the exact number of steps?
  • Did the subject lose their balance?
  • Did the subject stop due to problems or the need for re-instruction?
  • Did the subject step off the line?
  • Did the subject start before the instructions were finished?
  • Did the person touch heel to toe on every step?
  • Did the person turn improperly?

The One Leg Stand

99% of people surveyed say this is the most difficult of the tests. This one requires the subject to again stand “at attention” with the feet together and arms at their side. The subject must then lift the leg of their choice and hold it 6 inches off the ground for 30 seconds.

The Officer is looking for the following:

  • Did the subject sway while balancing on one leg?
  • Did the subject use their arms for balance?
  • Did the subject hop?
  • Did the subject put their foot down?
  • Did the subject have difficulty following the instructions?
  • Did the subject stop due to problems or the need for re-instruction?
  • Did the subject start before the instructions were finished?

The Finger to Nose

The subject is required to stand “at attention” with the feet together, eyes closed and head tilted back. The officer calls out “left” and “right” and the subject must respond by touching the corresponding finger to the tip of the nose.

The Officer is looking for the following:

  • Did the subject’s eyes remain closed?
  • Did the subject fail to return their arm to their side?
  • Did the subject miss the tip of the nose?
  • Did the subject use the wrong hand?
  • Did the subject have difficulty following the instructions?
  • Did the subject stop due to problems or the need for re-instruction?
  • Did the subject start before the instructions were finished?

The Alphabet Test

The good news is that you don’t have to say your ABCs backwards. The subject is required to stand “at attention” with the feet together and the eyes closed.

Upon the Officer’s command, the subject must recite the alphabet from A to Z without “singing” or “chanting”.

The Officer is looking for the following:

  • Did the subject’s eyes remain closed?
  • Did the subject sway more than 2 inches?
  • Did the subject use arms for balance?
  • Did the subject incorrectly recite the alphabet?
  • Did the subject have difficulty following the instructions?
  • Did the subject stop due to problems or the need for re-instruction?
  • Did the subject start before the instructions were finished?

The Counting Test

The test is conducted in a manner similar to the alphabet test. However the person is usually required to count backwards from one number to another. The Officer will choose difficult numbers like “92” to “68”. This test is also conducted while standing “at attention” with the feet together and the eyes closed.

The Officer is looking for the following:

  • Did the subject’s eyes remain closed?
  • Did the subject sway more than 2 inches?
  • Did the subject use arms for balance?
  • Did the subject incorrectly recite the numbers?
  • Did the subject keep going past the number they were supposed to stop at?
  • Did the subject have difficulty following the instructions?
  • Did the subject stop due to problems or the need for re-instruction?
  • Did the subject start before the instructions were finished?

HGN or Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus

The Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus is a scientific test. The Officer has the subject stare at a pen or a small light and requires them to follow it with their eyes but not their head. The belief is that an Officer can calculate how much alcohol is in your system just by watching your eyes. Very few Officers in the State of Florida are qualified to conduct this test so the results are often excluded from your case.

Defenses That Are Commonly Used To Invalidate The Results

The Videotape

A majority of the DUI Investigators in the Tampa area are now equipped with video cameras for the purpose of taping the Roadside Tests. This video can be your worst enemy or your best friend. The video will show how you really did on the tests and it will prevent the officer from exaggerating. Furthermore, the video often is in direct contradiction to what the Officer puts in the Police Report. The State is required to provide a copy of the video to your attorney. One of the best defenses in a DUI case is using the video against the Police Officer.

The Weather

Those of us living in Florida are more than familiar with the fast moving weather patterns of our state. Heat, wind and rain are often a part of our daily routines. The weather can play a factor in the performance of your roadside tests.

The Location

Location is another major factor in evaluating your roadside test defense. Some of the Location factors are as follows:

  • Traffic – Were you forced to do your tests within feet of the roadway with cars driving by?
  • Police Cars – were there 2 or 3 Police cars present with all of their flashing lights on?
  • Flat and Level Surface – Was the ground really as flat and level as the Officer says?
The Officer’s Skill Level
  • Improper Instructions – Did the Officer make mistakes while instructing you?
  • Improper Demonstration – Did the Officer make mistakes in the demonstration?
  • Reading of Your Rights – For the counting and alphabet to be valid the Officer must first read your rights.

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