When most people think of drunk driving, they think of alcohol. However, people who are under the influence of certain types of drugs and/or chemical substances are also subject to drunk driving laws. Even those taking prescription medications can be charged for driving under the influence (DUI) if they are not supposed to be driving after taking those medications—yes, even if those medications are prescribed by a doctor.
Furthermore, if a driver is caught with a prescription drug but does not have their prescription, not only can they be charged with driving under the influence if they have recently taken the drug, but they can also be charged with unlawful possession. They might avoid the second charge if the prescription is in its properly labeled container with their name on it.
If you were in an accident with someone who was under the influence of alcohol or drugs, contact an auto accident attorney like the team at the Law Offices of Jerry Jenkins.
In addition to beer, wine, hard liquor, and illicit drugs, certain chemical substances are illegal to consume. Possessing, breathing in, inhaling, or drinking these chemicals is illegal and can lead to a DUI charge if a person is caught driving under the influence of these chemicals. These substances include:
- Methyl ethyl ketone;
- Ethyl acetate;
- Ethylene glycol monomethyl ether acetate;
- Nitrous oxide;
- Alkyl nitrites (Butyl nitrite);
- Diethyl ether; and
- Any other similar substance the driver took to get intoxicated.
Court and Penalties
DUI cases are heard in traffic court and the penalties are harsh, especially for DUI manslaughter. Criminal penalties can range from a misdemeanor to a felony. DUI manslaughter comes with a felony charge. Additionally, repeat offenders get increasingly higher fines and longer jail time.
An injured victim or a deceased victim’s family members may also sue the perpetrator in civil court even if the DUI case also went to traffic court. Not only will the perpetrator have to pay the appropriate fines to the traffic court and do possible jail time, but they may also be required by the civil court to pay the victim or their family if the victim’s insurance company doesn’t cover the full cost of their injuries and damages.
Other penalties may include:
- The perpetrator’s vehicle may be impounded;
- The perpetrator may lose their license;
- The perpetrator may have to pay for and use an interlock system; and
- The perpetrator may have to attend a drug and alcohol abuse program.
If a person is convicted of DUI manslaughter, they will have their license revoked. Additionally, the drunk driver faces punishment for a second-degree felony for DUI manslaughter. If the drunk driver does not render aid at the crash scene or fails to give information to the police, they may face punishment for a first-degree felony. These charges are in addition to the damages the defendant may be required to pay as a result of claims brought through a personal injury lawsuit in civil court.
Despite These Penalties…
The severity of these criminal punishments may get a drunk driver off the road, but don’t do much to help their victims, who are struggling with serious injuries through no fault of their own. That’s where a drunk driving accident attorney can help you pay for the medical, psychological, and other treatments you need to fully recover.
Injuries Suffered in a DUI Crash
If you are injured in a crash with a drunk driver, your injuries may be minor or catastrophic, depending on the speed you and the drunk driver were traveling. How the driver hits you, whether from behind, head-on, or the side, also has an impact on the severity of your injuries. Injuries may include:
- Bumps, bruises, cuts, scrapes, or abrasions: These types of injuries heal quickly unless they get infected. An infection can take weeks to heal and it can cause additional complications.
- Strained, sprained, pulled, and torn muscles: These types of injuries generally heal in a few weeks unless you need surgery to repair the muscles. A torn muscle may take several weeks to heal, plus you may need to complete several weeks of physical therapy once the muscle starts healing enough for you to use the limb.
- Burns: Depending on the type of burn, it could heal in a matter of days or months. Burns easily become infected, so they must be kept clean while they are healing. Burns may also need to be debrided throughout the healing process, depending on the severity and type of burn. Fire and chemicals cause burns and each type is treated differently.
- Broken bones: You can suffer from many types of broken bones, from hairline fractures to crushed bones. The size of the bone and the type of break dictates the amount of time it takes to heal. You can expect at least 6 to 8 weeks minimum healing time.
- Compound fractures: A compound fracture is when the broken bone punctures the skin. These types of breaks often require surgery to repair. If the compound fracture is in a limb, you won’t be able to use it for several weeks, and then you may require several weeks or more of physical therapy.
- Head and neck injuries: Head and neck injuries may range from minor to catastrophic. Recovery depends on the injury and how it affects the rest of the body, particularly with neck injuries.
- Brain injuries: These injuries can often be catastrophic. Even a minor concussion can lead to additional problems, some, such as chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), only becoming evident later in life.
- Back and spine injuries: Back and spine injuries are also hard to determine a recovery time for as they may be minor or major. Back and spine injuries can also cause paralysis, which may last for weeks, months, years, or the rest of your life.
Time Is of the Essence
Even if you are still in the hospital because of your injuries, contact a DUI accident lawyer as soon as possible. You have a limited amount of time to file a case. Once the statute of limitations runs out, you will not be able to collect from the insurance company nor take your case to trial. The attorney will always try to settle the case first, so you do not have to go to trial. However, should you have to go to trial to get the compensation you deserve, the attorney will need to file your case before the deadline.
Keep in mind that it takes time to investigate a case, which includes proving fault and negligence in the accident and working with medical professionals who can testify on your behalf about your long-term or permanent injuries.
Working With Insurance Companies
If you are in an accident, you should contact a DUI accident attorney. You also must contact your insurance company at the time of the accident or shortly thereafter, but you should only give them your name, policy number, and the accident location. You should advise your insurance company that your attorney will be contacting them to discuss the details of the accident.
Whose Insurance Company Pays?
Because Florida is a no-fault state, your own insurance company will pay for damages up to the amount your policy covers. If your insurance policy limits are not high enough to cover your injuries or other damages you may be entitled to, the drunk driver’s insurance policy and the driver themselves may be required to cover the remainder of your expenses.
Why You Shouldn’t Settle With Your Insurance Company by Yourself
Insurance companies are in business to make a profit. Your best interest means that the insurance company’s bottom line suffers, and they will offer you the lowest amount possible to make you go away. However, a DUI accident lawyer will review your medical expenses and take into account other damages you could be entitled to and will try to come to a reasonable settlement with the insurance company. If the company refuses to come to a fair settlement, your attorney will take the case to court.
Of course, insurance companies do not want this to happen, as going to court means spending more money, which also affects their profit margin. And they know that you will probably get a better award in court. That is an incentive for most insurance companies to agree to a fair settlement out of court. Even so, some insurance companies refuse to come to a fair settlement and end up in court.
Damages Often Awarded in a DUI Wreck
Damages settled for or awarded in a DUI wreck can include special damages, general damages, and punitive damages. Each category encompasses several types of damages.
These are often referred to as economic damages as they have a dollar amount attached to them. Special damages may include:
- Medical expenses incurred before settlement or the court trial;
- Future medical expenses expected to be incurred after the settlement or the court trial;
- Wages lost before settlement or the court trial;
- Future lost wages expected to be lost due to on-going injuries and treatment for those injuries; and
- Replacement or repair of personal property including the vehicle or personal items in the vehicle that were destroyed in the accident.
In some cases, future medical expenses and future lost wages may be categorized as general damages. While they do have a cost associated with them, that cost is unknown at the time of settlement or at trial. Insurance companies and attorneys estimate the cost based on the average time certain types of injuries take to heal.
Because you might be entitled to future lost wages and future medical expenses, let your attorney know if you have underlying issues that might cause your injury to take longer to heal. Diabetes, a compromised immune system from cancer or other diseases, and certain medications, such as chemotherapy, can cause injuries, especially open wounds, to heal more slowly. Those with compromised immune systems also have a higher risk of having an open wound become infected, which also adds to the time and cost of recovery.
General damages are often referred to as non-economic damages because a price tag cannot easily be attached to them. A general damage award depends on each injured person’s situation, but can include:
- Pain and suffering, if the pain and suffering are expected to be long term.
- Loss of companionship if you cannot spend time with your family doing activities you usually would do, like sports, outings, or taking your children to extracurricular activities.
- Loss of consortium if you are no longer able to have a physical relationship with your spouse.
- Disfigurement if the accident caused you to be disfigured. For example, you could get compensation for disfigurement if you are burned and the burn does not heal without scarring.
- Inconvenience if your injuries prevent you from doing chores around the home and you need to hire someone else to complete them in your stead. Chores may include cooking, cleaning, taking care of the yard, and general home maintenance.
- Mental anguish if the accident causes you to suffer from depression because of the severity of your injuries, or if the accident causes you to experience post-traumatic stress disorder. Mental anguish may also be awarded as part of a pain and suffering award.
- Loss of a limb if the accident causes paralysis or you can no longer use one or more of your limbs if that loss is more extensive than any previous immobility.
Generally, injuries are considered long term if the effects are expected to last at least a year.
This type of damage is only awarded as a punishment for the defendant. The defendant’s behavior must have been grossly negligent or intentional. In many cases, punitive damages are awarded in a DUI accident because the defendant knew that they should not have been driving under the influence and that their actions had a high probability of getting someone injured or killed.
Contact the Law Offices of Jerry Jenkins if a Drunk Driver Hurt You or a Loved One In Orlando
If you were injured or you lost a loved one in a DUI crash, contact the Law Offices of Jerry Jenkins at (407) 287-6757 for a free case evaluation and to learn more about your rights and the damages you might be entitled to.