Articles Posted in Drunk Driving Accidents

drinking while drivingRecently, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a personal injury case discussing whether a car accident that was caused by an intoxicated employee was covered under the employer’s insurance policy. Specifically, the case required the court to determine if the employee was considered a “permissive user” under the company’s insurance policy. Ultimately, the court concluded that the employee was a permissive user, and therefore the accident was covered under the employer’s insurance policy.

The case presents a valuable lesson for Florida car accident victims in that it illustrates the importance of discovering all available potential avenues for recovery in a personal injury lawsuit. By naming multiple responsible parties, a plaintiff increases their chance of recovery in the event that one named defendant is insolvent or found not to be liable for the plaintiff’s injuries.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was injured in a car accident when the defendant rear-ended him. At the time of the accident, the defendant was traveling for work and operating a company vehicle. It was later determined that the defendant was under the influence of alcohol at the time of the accident.

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In an effort to curb the increasing number of Florida drunk driving accidents, Florida lawmakers have passed a law that allows for the victims of a drunk driving accident to hold the person who sold alcohol to the intoxicated person liable for their injuries. The law, called the Dram Shop Law, is actually an old vestige of the Temperance Movement from back in the early 19th century.

Legal News GavelUnder Florida’s Dram Shop Law, contained in Florida Statutes section 768.125, anyone who serves alcohol “willfully and unlawfully” to either a minor or a person who is “habitually addicted to the use of any or all alcoholic beverages” can be held liable. Florida’s Dram Shop Law is more limited than other states’, many of which provide for liability when someone serves a visibly intoxicated person.

A recent case illustrates how courts apply Dram Shop Laws, as well as the quantum of evidence that must be presented in order for a plaintiff to successfully establish liability.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court in Florida issued a written opinion in a tragic Florida car accident case that claimed the life of the plaintiff’s pregnant wife. The case involved the question of whether a road-side hotel had a duty to prevent traffic from a nearby road from entering the hotel’s pool area in the event of an out-of-control vehicle. Ultimately, the court concluded that the hotel did not have a duty to prevent this type of accident, and it dismissed the plaintiff’s case.

Legal News GavelThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff and his pregnant wife were sitting poolside under a cabana while staying at the defendant hotel. While the couple was under the cabana, a drunk driver lost control of her vehicle, jumped a curb, and came careening into the hotel’s pool area. The car crashed into the cabana, killing the plaintiff’s wife and injuring the plaintiff.

The plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against both the driver of the car as well as the hotel. The plaintiff presented evidence that it was common for motorists to speed on the road on which the hotel was located. An engineer testified that, due to a curve in the road, at some point, vehicles traveling along the road are directly facing the pool area. The plaintiff argued that, given these facts, the hotel should have taken additional precautions to prevent this type of accident.

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In all Florida personal injury cases, the plaintiff must prove certain facts before they will be entitled to receive compensation for their injuries. The specific elements that must be proven depend largely on the type of case, but some elements are almost universally required across all Florida personal injury cases.

Legal News GavelOne of the most common – and most contested – elements in a Florida personal injury case is the element of causation. Simply stated, the element of causation requires that a plaintiff prove that the defendant’s actions were the cause of their injuries. While this sounds simple in theory, a recent case illustrates how establishing causation may not be as straightforward as it initially seems.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was riding his motorcycle on the highway. When he rounded a curve, he approached another accident without warning, and he was unable to safely stop in time to avoid an accident. He ended up sustaining serious injuries as a result of the motorcycle accident.

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In a recent case, a state appellate court considered whether a company could be held liable after an employee caused an accident in a company car while driving drunk. According to the facts as laid out in the court’s opinion, the employee received permission to use a company car on a weekend to move a mattress into a new home, even though this was a violation of company policy. The employee drank several alcoholic drinks on the day he borrowed the car and then collided with the plaintiff’s car.

Legal News GavelThe plaintiff brought a lawsuit against the employee and also brought a claim against the company for negligent entrustment. A trial court first heard the case and granted summary judgment to the company on the negligent entrustment claim. It concluded the employer did not know the employee had a pattern of reckless driving, since the employer only knew the employee had one prior DUI conviction and was not aware he had additional DUI convictions.

The plaintiff appealed the decision. He argued summary judgment was improper because the court should have considered whether the company had a duty to investigate the employee’s driving background more thoroughly. The appeals court agreed. It noted that when the company hired the employee, he listed a 1990 conviction for possession of cocaine, but he omitted multiple prior DUI convictions. However, the employee said he told the company about his history of drugs and alcohol, and he also told the company his license was reinstated in 2010 after it was suspended for a DUI conviction. The company did a background investigation of the employee before hiring him. The investigation showed a clean driving history, but it only showed infractions for the previous three years, and his federal criminal history did not show any convictions.

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The death of a man in Key West earlier this month should serve the public as a sad reminder of the dangers of operating any vehicle while impaired by alcohol or drugs. The accident, which was reported by a local news source, occurred on October 14 and resulted in the death of a 69-year-old man who was aboard the vessel that capsized. According to details released by local police, the cause of death was most likely drowning, although all of the occupants on board the craft claimed to be too intoxicated to remember what happened and were unable to report details of what happened to the police.

Intoxication Cannot Be Used as a Defense to Most Civil Accusations of Wrongdoing

Although police have reported that all of the surviving men who were on board the boat when it capsized were too drunk to remember the details of the crash, it is possible that they are using their intoxication as an excuse not to cooperate in the investigation. This may be because the mLegal News Gavelen are fearful of criminal charges being filed based on the incident. In the event a criminal or civil case is pursued against any party involved, the intoxication of whoever was responsible will not serve as an excuse.

Under Florida law, intoxication cannot generally be used to defend against allegations that a person had the required mental state to commit a tort. In most personal injury cases, the plaintiff is required to prove that the defendant was negligent. A defendant cannot claim that they were intoxicated and therefore not negligent. In fact, proving intoxication may actually satisfy one or more elements of the tort the plaintiff is seeking to establish.

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The Supreme Court of Massachusetts recently released an opinion affirming a district court’s ruling that a plaintiffs’ lawsuit against a restaurant regarding the DUI-related death of their family member could proceed. The defendant had argued that the plaintiffs submitted an insufficient affidavit to make a claim against a provider of alcoholic beverages, but both courts disagreed with the defendant’s arguments, and the case will continue to be heard.

Legal News GavelPlaintiffs’ Family Member Dies after Allegedly Being Served an Excessive Amount of Alcohol by the Defendant

According to the plaintiffs’ complaint, their family member died in a single-car DUI accident after he had spent hours at a restaurant and bar operated by the defendant. The plaintiffs claim that an employee of the defendant repeatedly served the driver alcoholic beverages, knowing that he was extremely intoxicated and that he would be driving home. The claim, made under a state law known as the Dram Shop Act, is allowed against third parties who knowingly serve alcohol to a visibly intoxicated patron who later causes an injury or death while driving drunk. Several states have various forms of dram shop laws, which have been enacted to discourage dangerous serving practices at restaurants and bars across the country.

The Defendant’s Request to Dismiss the Case Is Rejected

Once the plaintiffs’ case was filed, the defendants asked the court to dismiss it, arguing that an affidavit attached to a Dram Shop Act claim must be based on personal knowledge rather than simply information and belief. Both the district court and the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled that an affidavit based on knowledge and belief is sufficient to prevent the claim from being dismissed, and any irregularities or discrepancies in the facts can be decided by a judge or jury at a later point in the case. Based on the rulings, the plaintiffs’ claim will be allowed to proceed toward a trial or settlement.

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