Lakeland Drunk Driving Accident Lawyer
Despite public awareness campaigns and harsh criminal and civil penalties, drunk driving continues to cause devastation throughout the Lakeland area each year. From high-speed accidents on I-4 to wrecks on Bartow Road, drivers who make the reckless choice to get behind the wheel after drinking put others in danger of crashes that often result in fatalities and serious injuries.
If you suffered injuries in a Lakeland drunk driving accident, you may need a drunk driving accident lawyer to help you seek the compensation you deserve. Contact our Lakeland personal injury lawyers today for a free consultation to learn about your right to compensation.
The Fernandez Firm: We Want to Win Lakeland Drunk Driving Accident Cases
At The Fernandez Firm, we don’t get paid unless we win, and we are committed to helping Lakeland drunk driving accident victims seek much-needed compensation for their injuries. Our firm has recovered more than $100 million in damages for the victims of serious injuries due to someone else’s wrongful actions.
Our past auto accident results include:
- $850,000 awarded to a woman who suffered a traumatic brain injury and back injuries in an auto accident
- $450,000 awarded for the family of a wrongful death victim in a car accident
- $274,434 awarded to a woman who suffered serious back and neck injuries in a car crash
- $236,000 awarded for a woman who suffered spinal injuries in a T-bone accident
- $200,000 awarded to a victim who suffered facial scarring and head and neck injuries
Our past successes do not guarantee the outcome of future matters we handle. However, at The Fernandez Firm, we do guarantee we will fight to help our clients recover as much compensation as possible.
We work with our clients at every step of the process of seeking payment for their injuries and losses, from helping them understand the full compensation they deserve and collecting evidence related to the accident to putting together a clear, compelling claim. We fight to get our clients paid for harm caused by Lakeland drunk driving accidents.
Lakeland Drunk Driving Accident Hazards
According to Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV), drunk driving accidents exact a heavy, constant toll on Lakeland-area roads. Over the past few years, drunk drivers have consistently caused between 140 and 150 crashes per year in Polk County, resulting in dozens of deaths, hundreds of injuries, millions in costs, and untold personal suffering.
Sadly, it doesn’t seem like the drumbeat of tragedy is likely to slow. Lakeland has witnessed considerable population growth over the past few years, which translates into more drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians on our roads and, inevitably, more drunk drivers.
As always, those reckless drunk drivers create a host of dangers for innocent Lakeland residents, workers, and visitors with whom they share the road.
Lakeland Drunk Drivers Suffer From Severely Impaired Driving Abilities
Drunk driving occurs whenever a Lakeland area driver gets behind the wheel while impaired by the effects of alcohol. Although the legal limit for intoxication in Florida is a blood alcohol content of 0.08 percent, most drivers begin to feel the impairing effects of alcohol well before then.
Consuming alcohol can before driving can:
- Slow reaction times, making it difficult for drivers to stop a vehicle when they perceive a hazard, or to keep a vehicle under control.
- Interfere with the judgment of speed and distance, making drunk drivers liable to speed, tailgate, and misperceive where their vehicle is compared to others.
- Impair vision, causing blurred or double vision behind the wheel.
- Erode motor skills, making it difficult for drivers to navigate curves or keep a vehicle in a travel lane.
- Diminish decision-making abilities, causing drivers to make poor choices at intersections or when yielding the right of way to other vehicles.
Any of these impairments, on its own, can easily result in a deadly accident. However, with drunk drivers, they occur in combination, exponentially increasing the risk of a crash.
At The Fernandez Firm, we believe in holding drunk drivers and anyone else responsible for their actions accountable for the harm they cause.
Drunk Driving Accidents in Lakeland Can Leave Victims with Severe Injuries
In many cases, drunk driving accidents leave victims with more severe injuries than they might otherwise sustain in a car accident. Drunk drivers tend to commit mistakes behind the wheel that lead to more dangerous accidents, like head-on and T-bone collisions, and those accidents tend to happen at higher speeds. As a result, victims of Lakeland drunk driving accidents face a risk of sustaining severe or fatal injuries, many of which can have lifelong repercussions.
We have helped clients of The Fernandez Firm with these conditions and more.
- Traumatic Brain Injury. Victims with traumatic brain injury may have severe impacts that change the course of their lives. Even victims with minor traumatic brain injury may suffer from symptoms that linger more than a year after a Lakeland drunk driving accident. Severe traumatic brain injuries can cause permanent impairments resulting in problems with concentration, cognition, motor coordination, communication, short-term and long-term memory, and emotional regulation.
- Back and Neck Injuries. Many car accidents, including drunk driving accidents, result in severe back and neck injuries. From herniated discs to spinal cord injuries, those injuries can cause severe, ongoing pain for the victim. While herniated discs and muscle injuries may cause the victim to suffer from immense pain, spinal cord injuries may result in loss of mobility and may even interfere with proper organ function below the site of the injury.
- Facial Injuries. Drunk driving accidents also frequently result in facial injuries, including severe lacerations that leave lasting scars. Facial injuries may result from a driver’s head colliding with the steering wheel, broken glass from the windshield, or sharp items flying around the cabin of a car in an impact. Many victims struggle with the emotional impact of facial scarring, since it may permanently change their appearance.
- Amputations and Crushed Limbs. Some severe auto accident injuries to limbs result in amputation or loss of functional use. The force of drunk driving accidents often causes substantial damage to a vehicle’s body, which in turn can pinch or crush limbs and appendages. Victims who lose a limb to amputation may struggle with many daily tasks. While many use a prosthetic device to help improve overall mobility and function or to restore normal appearance, prosthetic devices often prove expensive, which means they may represent an ongoing financial burden for many victims.
- Broken Bones. Many drunk driving accident victims sustain broken bones. Even a single broken bone, which may require surgical treatment to set properly, can permanently limit the victim’s mobility or lead to chronic pain for the rest of the victim’s life. More severe injuries, including multiple broken bones, may cause the victim to struggle with self-care or make it difficult for the victim to engage in normal activities while recovering.
Filing a Personal Injury Claim After a Lakeland Drunk Driving Accident Can Help
If you suffered serious injuries in a Lakeland drunk driving accident, the experienced attorneys at The Fernandez Firm can help you understand the options available to you for seeking and recovering compensation from the at-fault parties.
How Much Compensation Should I Expect After a Lakeland Drunk Driving Accident?
Lakeland drunk driving accident victims need compensation to help them pay medical bills and to cover the wages they miss out on earning while incapacitated by their injuries. How much compensation should you expect? At The Fernandez Firm, we cannot guarantee how much money you might obtain for your drunk driving accident injuries.
However, most drunk driving accident claims can seek:
- Compensation for Medical Expenses. Medical expenses often constitute a significant portion of the damages victims seek to recover through a drunk driving accident injury claim. The amount of medical expenses usually depends on the extent of an individual’s injuries—the more serious the injuries, the higher the current and future costs.
- Compensation for Lost Wages and Income. Drunk driving accident injuries often prevent victims from returning to work temporarily or permanently. The resulting loss of wages and income often makes up part of a drunk driving accident injury claim. At The Fernandez Firm, we work closely with our clients to determine not just the amount of time they missed from work due to an injury, but also the impact an injury may have on their future earning potential. No one should suffer a penny’s worth of lost income because of the recklessness of a Lakeland drunk driver.
- Compensation for Pain and Suffering. Most drunk driving accident claims in Lakeland also seek compensation for the victim’s pain, suffering, and other life difficulties occasioned by an injury or the accident itself. These challenges may not relate directly to an identifiable financial loss, but that does not make them any less devastating for victims and their families. The Fernandez Firm fights for money to compensate our clients for the overall life impact of every drunk driving accident injury, including diminished quality of life, harm to personal relationships, and mental health struggles.
Punitive Damages and Lakeland Drunk Driving Accidents
In some cases, the attorneys at The Fernandez Firm can also seek payment of punitive damages to our clients in drunk driving accident cases. These damages aim to punish extremely wrongful or intentional conduct that led to an injury, which is often the perfect description for the reckless, selfish choice of getting behind the wheel of a vehicle after consuming alcohol.
Lakeland Drunk Driving Accident FAQs
Some people do not realize how much alcohol has affected them. They might believe they are fit to go behind the wheel of a car. False confidence can lead to a drunk driving collision. Places like Lakeland have a high chance of alcohol-related incidents.
After all, the growing population means more active drivers and pedestrians. Victims of drunk driving have to deal with the costs of recovery. Many of them suffer from a lower quality of life.
The law may allow them to receive compensation for their losses. You might want to establish a drunk driving claim but have multiple questions.
What Types of Accidents Does Drunk Driving Cause?
Even small amounts of alcohol can impair a person’s ability to judge and react behind the wheel. Many intoxicated motorists end up in a rear-end collision. They can take longer to realize they need to brake if someone stops in front of them.
The individual could falsely assume they have enough room and time to slow down. A crash occurs, and either party could sustain injuries. The drunk driver becomes liable for property damage as well.
Head-on collisions can occur at intersections when the intoxicated driver fails to yield during a left turn. Alcohol can make the person swerve or become drowsy. As a result, the vehicle moves out of its lane and into oncoming traffic.
A head-on collision can happen when someone goes the wrong way. The motorist cannot comprehend traffic signs as decently as a sober person. The car could travel on a one-way street in the wrong direction. Injuries from a head-on crash can be severe.
In several reported cases, drunk driving accidents take place during the night. The darkness reduces visibility along with alcohol. Therefore, a person has a higher risk of a pedestrian accident. An incident can occur at a crosswalk or on the sidewalk.
Since pedestrians have no barrier, they are more likely to sustain serious bodily harm. No matter the type of accident, you should reach out to a drunk driving lawyer.
How Does the Police Test for Intoxication?
Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus
Many law enforcement officers ask suspected drivers to undergo Field Sobriety Tests. The process is a group of three tests to measure a person’s coordination, balance, and ability to multitask. One of them is the horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN). The HGN is when the eyeball jerks involuntarily.
The twitch of an intoxicated person’s eyes becomes more noticeable. The police have the driver follow an object’s movement from side to side. They look for distinct jerking within a 45-degree angle. Researchers found the test to be accurate roughly 77 percent of the time.
One-Leg Stand Test
Next, the motorist has to perform the one-leg stand test. Data shows that the process has an accuracy rating of 65 percent. During the test, the officer makes the driver stand on one leg and count. The foot needs to be at least six inches from the ground.
For about 30 seconds, authorities look for signs of hopping to maintain balance. Other indicators are swaying and placing the foot on the ground. An officer usually suspects the person to have a high blood alcohol content (BAC) if they show two or more signs.
Another test in the group is the walk-and-turn test. The suspected driver needs to take nine steps in one direction and nine steps back. They need to walk in a straight line while they do so. Several clues give an officer an indication of intoxication.
A drunk driver might lose balance or fail to take the correct number of steps. Another sign is the person using their arms to stay upright. If the person displays two or more indicators, they could have driven under the influence. The test has an accuracy of 68 percent.
A sober person could fail the Field Sobriety Tests for various reasons. However, the process is correct in most cases. You can use the results in court to prove your claim.
What Penalties Does Someone Face for Drunk Driving?
While the rate has gone down over the years, more than 10,000 fatalities occur due to drunk driving. Most states set a BAC of 0.08 as the legal limit for drivers. Florida has a Zero Tolerance law, so Lakeland drivers under 21 cannot have alcohol in their systems.
Drivers can face punishment for the use of alcohol or other substances. The first conviction leads to a fine of anywhere between $500 and $1,000. The judge could sentence the motorist to jail for no more than six months. A second conviction means a maximum fine of $2,000 and up to nine months of imprisonment.
The fines and jail time increase for subsequent convictions. If a crash occurred and caused damage, the defendant gets a first-degree misdemeanor. As a result, the person faces up to a year in prison or $1,000 in fines. A repeat DUI offender or a crash with serious bodily injury leads to a third-degree felony charge.
Additionally, an individual receives harsher penalties if they had a 0.15 BAC or left the accident scene. The presence of a minor in the vehicle raises the punishment as well. The person faces a driver’s license revocation period. The duration depends on the number of offenses and the presence of bodily injury.
In Florida, insurance companies penalize people for DUI violations. On average, drivers face an 85 percent increase in insurance rates.
How Do You Build a Strong Case?
The defendant may argue they had not been under the influence. If they were, the other side could try to prove they at least were not at fault for the crash. During the claims process, you need to build a compelling case to ensure you get compensation for your losses.
A few ways include:
- Police reports. A police report is not generally admissible in court, but insurance adjusters place importance on the document. The details help link the traumatic event to your injuries. Usually, the report lists statements, the officer’s conclusions, and a drawn diagram.
- Visual evidence. After an accident, you should take photos of the vehicle damage and your injuries if possible. You can show you did not exaggerate your claims of bodily harm. Footage from dashcams or street cameras helps depict the other motorist’s erratic driving patterns.
- Hospital visits. People should visit a healthcare facility soon after an accident. The medical report you obtain can link the accident to your decline in well-being. Additionally, you can use the bills you acquire to build your case.
- Witnesses. One or more people could have seen the alcohol-related collision. You should get their contact information after the accident. Police reports may list the names and statements of witnesses. During the discovery phase, your lawyer gets their statement in a deposition.
You should hire a lawyer to help you gather evidence. They can let you know what other information improves your claim.
What Are the Advantages of a Drunk Driving Attorney?
People injured in a drunk driving accident have a right to represent themselves. However, they could risk the loss of their case if they proceed alone. The legal system is complex, and a person might not have the time required to research and compile evidence.
The advantages a lawyer can give you in court are:
- No early settlements. The other side’s insurance company may pressure you to accept a quick settlement. The offer is usually lower than what you need. An attorney helps ensure you do not miss out on fair compensation.
- No paperwork errors. A lawsuit generally means plenty of paperwork for you to file. A mistake or missed deadline can cause a setback or a dismissal. Lawyers have the knowledge and experience needed to prevent a failed case.
- Determines who is responsible. Lawyers conduct extensive investigations to prove the other side is at fault. In a few instances, the liable party is someone else. For example, a car part manufacturer could be accountable for a malfunction. No matter who is negligent, a lawyer can discover the guilty party.
You can ask a friend or family member for recommendations. Websites contain valuable information about potential firms near you.
What Happens if the Victim Dies?
Severe drunk driving collisions can result in the death of the victim. As a result, someone else would need to represent the deceased in a lawsuit. Some states allow living family members to start a claim. However, Florida law states the personal representative, or an executor, be the one to manage a claim.
The deceased’s will or estate plan lists the personal representative. If a will or plan does not exist, the court decides on the executor instead. The spouse, children, or parents are eligible for compensation.
The court could award money to other blood relatives and adopted siblings if they relied on the decedent for support. Damages include funeral expenses, loss of companionship, and loss of support and services. If the victim was a child, the judge might consider the minor’s life expectancy and health to determine a settlement.
The victim’s estate can receive money for lost earnings as well.
What Happens if the Defendant Dies?
In a few instances, the at-fault party passes away before the claim resolves. The person might have died due to their injuries from the car crash. An unrelated reason could be the cause. Regardless, some plaintiffs worry they are unable to collect compensation.
You can proceed with a case even if the opposing party dies during the process. You could file a claim with the other side’s insurance company. The adjuster would still need to pay you if you prove negligence.
If the lawsuit is already in progress, the plaintiffs would pursue the case against the deceased’s estate. A personal representative would appear in court on the defendant’s behalf. The executor could complicate matters if they disagree with the proposed settlement.
The other side might have been underinsured or uninsured. Additionally, the person could have had little to no financial assets. The money you collect from the estate might not be enough to cover your losses. Talk to a drunk driving attorney to explore all your options.
Can You Reopen a Drunk Driving Case?
A claim can take a while to resolve, and people want them to proceed as smoothly and quickly as possible. However, you should not rush the process since you only get one settlement. Down the line, you might realize you gained more expenses from ongoing medical care.
An injured person cannot reopen a case once they agree to an offer. During the settlement process, the at-fault party prepares a set of documents for you to sign. The release agreement means you agree to release the defendant from liability. You cannot seek further compensation for the same accident.
In most cases, the court upholds the signed agreement. You must ensure a medical evaluation discovers all injuries the drunk driving crash had caused. You should have a lawyer help you figure out if the proposed reimbursement covers current and future losses.
Do Drunk Driving Lawsuits Have a Deadline?
If you believe you have a case, you should review the laws of your state. Every jurisdiction places a limited length of time you can collect reimbursement. In Florida, a person has four years to begin a lawsuit in civil court. Otherwise, you are unable to recover damages.
The accused driver might have left the state before you could start your case. The law could allow the deadline to pause until the person returns. An extension can apply for injured people who the court deemed legally incapacitated during the incident. However, the extension lasts for no more than seven years.
If the victim died because of another’s actions, you would file a wrongful death claim. However, the statute of limitations is two years. The “clock” begins to run on the day of the person’s death.
You can file a claim for damaged property, including your vehicle, phone, laptop, and other personal items.
The deadline is four years from the traumatic event. Recovery can last a while, and the years can pass by quickly.
A drunk driving attorney completes the paperwork on time. You do not need to worry about the expiration of the statute of limitations.
Who Is Liable for a Lakeland Drunk Driving Accident?
In most drunk driving accident matters we handle at The Fernandez Firm, the drunk driver bears most of the blame for what happened. The decision to drive drunk is inexcusably reckless, and it almost always saddles the driver with at least some of the legal liability for paying compensation to injured victims.
That does not mean, however, that the drunk driver is the only party who may have liability for a Lakeland drunk driving crash. At The Fernandez Firm, we examine the facts of every client’s injuries to determine whether other parties share liability with a drunk driver.
- The employer of a drunk driver may face liability if the driver crashed a work vehicle, especially if the employer knew, or should have known, of the driver’s proclivity for driving drunk.
- The manufacturer of any vehicle involved in a Lakeland drunk driving crash could also bear some of the blame, if (for example) a vehicle’s defective parts contributed to the cause of an accident.
- A Lakeland-area bar, restaurant, or alcohol licensee if it sold alcohol to a drunk driver who was a minor, or to someone who was known to have a habitual addiction to alcohol.
- A municipal agency if it designed, built, or maintained local roads in an unreasonably unsafe condition that made the drunk driving accident more likely to occur.
These are just some of the parties who could share liability with a drunk driver who causes a harmful accident in Lakeland. The team at The Fernandez Firm understands the importance of identifying every party with potential liability for a Lakeland drunk driving accident victim’s injuries so that our client has the best possible chance of securing maximum compensation.
Do You Need a Lakeland Drunk Driving Accident Lawyer?
Did a Lakeland-area drunk driver harm you or a loved one? If so, Frank and Jennifer Fernandez at The Fernandez Firm invite you to contact us today online or at (863) 230-8361 for a free consultation about your legal rights and options for securing the compensation you deserve from the at-fault parties. Do not wait. You may have only a limited amount of time to take legal action seeking the money you deserve.
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I had an extraordinary experience at The Fernandez Firm Accident Injury Attorneys. They were so professional and kept me well informed about my case. I would highly recommend them.
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The Fernandez Firm Accident Injury Attorneys
2503 W Swann Ave #100
Tampa, FL 33609