Is It Worth Suing a Drunk Driver?

Being hurt in a car accident is always a traumatic and stressful experience. Finding out that the driver who caused the accident was drunk can be even more frustrating since it means the accident was probably totally preventable. You may be dealing with medical bills, physical and mental pain and stress, car repair costs, and missed time at work. If insurance doesn’t cover all your costs, you could be paying the price for someone else’s careless actions.

A drunk driver at the wheel of a car.

Fortunately, there are several possibilities to seek compensation in these situations. The best way to explore your options is to immediately speak with a car accident lawyer to protect your legal rights. The Darrigo & Diaz law firm has been representing victims of drunk drivers and other personal injury situations since 1999, and we’re always available for a free consultation. We can help you understand the alternatives to get the compensation you deserve in your particular situation. In the meantime, here are some things you need to know about suing a drunk driver:

You Don’t Have To File With PIP First

In most Florida car accident cases, drivers must first use their Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage, which all Florida drivers are required to have. PIP provides $10,000 in no-fault insurance for any medical expenses. The idea behind PIP legislation is to prevent large numbers of car accident cases for less than $10,000 from clogging up the court system. Ideally, this also benefits the car accident victim – you get in an accident, file a claim with PIP, your costs get taken care of, and you don’t have to spend time or money proving the other driver was at fault.

In practice, PIP claims don’t always work that smoothly. Just because you don’t have to prove fault doesn’t mean the insurance adjuster won’t look for other reasons to deny your claim. Additionally, people with severe injuries may have more damages than $10,000. While in most cases, Florida law requires the injured party to seek compensation from PIP first, then allows a lawsuit against the driver or their insurer for costs beyond that coverage, an exception is made for situations where you are injured by a drunk driver. You may directly sue the drunk driver right away, without making a PIP claim.

Is Suing The Drunk Driver A Good Option?

This is highly dependent on the specific situation. For some people, it may be the best solution. For others, focusing on PIP and other insurance coverage may make more sense. We always find it essential to consider what kind of assets the drunk driver has. If they have little to no money or valuable assets, collecting your damages may be difficult even if you win your case. Unfortunately, it’s not unusual for a driver charged with DUI in an accident to spend all their money on legal defense for their criminal trial. If they lose and go to jail for any significant period of time, they will probably be without income. Pursuing a lawsuit may be a good option if they still have significant assets left over. If not, collecting what you can from all available insurance policies may be easier and faster.

PIP May Not Be The Only Applicable Insurance

PIP is a good starting point for personal injury damages worth less than $10,000. But because some accidents result in higher amounts of damages, and extracting compensation from the other driver isn’t always possible, it’s recommended that you buy broader coverage. If you have a MedPay policy, this will also pay your medical costs to the policy limit, regardless of fault. Collision insurance will do the same for damage to your vehicle. However, the other driver is also required to have $10,000 in Property Damage Liability; in most cases, this is enough to cover your car repair bills. But if it isn’t, your Collision coverage should kick in.

If the drunk driver is uninsured, your Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist coverage (UM/UI) may also provide some compensation for your damages. UM/UI insurance is not required in Florida, but we recommend it to protect yourself in situations where your PIP coverage is insufficient.

What If There Isn’t Enough Insurance Coverage For Your Damages?

Unfortunately, drunk drivers can do a lot of damage. Some victims may have serious or even permanent injuries, while others may have lost a loved one. In these cases, available insurance may not cover most of the medical bills, lost income, and physical and emotional pain you’ve gone through. As we discussed, it’s possible to sue the drunk driver, but you might not be any better off if they cannot pay the judgment against them.

In some situations, there are other options. Depending on the circumstances, you may be able to sue a third party, such as a bar or restaurant that overserved the driver – especially if the driver was already drunk at the time. There are specific legal requirements for filing a “dram shop” claim, and your lawyer will advise you if they think this could be an option for your case.

Florida also has a crime victim compensation fund that may pay up to $10,000 to people injured by another party committing a felony or misdemeanor. You will need to cooperate with law enforcement and meet certain other requirements, and the funding is limited. If your attorney thinks this is a good option for your situation, they can help you with the paperwork.

Call a Darrigo & Diaz Drunk Driving Accident Lawyer Today

If you or a loved one have been injured at the hands of an intoxicated driver, you deserve compensation for your damages. Once you know your options,  you’ll be able to make an informed decision about how to move forward. Please contact the Darrigo & Diaz Attorneys at Law for a free, no-obligation consultation. If we take your case, there will be no charge until we secure a settlement for you. Call us at 813-734-7397.


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