Picture a DUI crash in which a child is injured or even killed. When asked
to imagine this tragic scenario, most people probably picture a drunk
driver plowing into a family car. There's another scenario, however,
one that may be even more upsetting than the first image - a crash in
which the drunk driver and the child are in the same vehicle. In these
cases, the driver is almost certainly someone the child trusts, even loves.
Florida's criminal law imposes extra penalties in these cases, but
it remains the job of the civil law to provide proper compensation to
the victim. Our firm understands the unique needs of child DUI victims.
We are proud to serve as a civil law firm for injured children in Panama
City and to represent families in wrongful death cases when a child's
life is lost in these terrible crashes.
Two Months, Two Intoxicated Drivers in Florida With Children Onboard
Shortly after 11 A.M. on September 23, 2014, Panama City Police responded
to a report of a crash at the corner of Business Hwy 98 and East Avenue.
The News Herald reports that officers began a DUI investigation due to
suspicions that one of the drivers was impaired and later arrested him
for that offence. The man, a Panama City resident, was driving on a suspended
license so police also charged him with felony driving on a suspended
or revoked license.
Additionally, police found two small children in the suspect's vehicle,
along with the man's wife who also appeared impaired. Police added
child abuse to the litany of charges and took the 39 year-old suspect
to Bay County Jail. While the man's passengers were unharmed, the
driver of the other vehicle was transported to the hospital for treatment.
Sadly, this is far from the only case of an intoxicated driver having children
on board. Just last month, police arrested a Delray Beach babysitter for
driving while intoxicated with two young girls in the back seat. The Sun
Sentinel noted that some bystanders intervened to help after the woman
drove off the road. By the time police arrived, the woman was laying on
the median and unable to stand on her own. Thankfully, the girls were
not hurt and their parents came to get them. The parents said the kids
were slated to stay overnight with the woman, a family friend.
Alcohol-Impaired Drivers & Child Passengers
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's ("NHTSA")
Traffic Safety Facts: Alcohol-Impaired Driving, 10,322 people died in
accidents involving an alcohol-impaired driver in 2012 (31% of the year's
total traffic fatalities). The agency defines an alcohol-impaired accident
as a crash involving at least one driver with a BAC of 0.08 or higher.
Of the 1,168 children age 14 and under killed in traffic crashes in 2012,
20% (239) perished in an alcohol-impaired accident.
The report found 124 of those 239 child deaths (52%) occurred when the
child was an occupant of the impaired driver's vehicle. In a position
paper discussing these figures, Mothers Against Drunk Driving notes that
a child riding with an impaired driver is at risk because of the driver's
impairment and also because an impaired adult is less likely to make sure
a child is properly restrained.
Punishment & Compensation, Criminal & Civil Law
Florida law provides an enhanced penalty for impaired drivers when they
have a passenger under age 18 at the time of the offense (Section 316.193(4)).
The penalty, also applicable when a driver's BAC is 0.15 or higher,
includes a fine of between $1,000 and $2,000 and up to 9 months imprisonment
for a first conviction. Additionally, the offender must use an ignition
interlock device (see link below) on all vehicles used for at least six
months from the time the offender regains a drivers' license.
While criminal laws penalize the offender, it is the civil side of our
justice system that works to compensate victims. This recovery can be
especially critical when the injury will has lasting, lifelong consequences
and the victims will continue to incur costs related to the injury in
the future. Our Panama City DUI injury lawyer regularly recovers compensation
for a client's estimated future costs as well as ongoing pain and
suffering. If someone else made the terrible choice of driving while intoxicated
with your child in the vehicle and this led to an injury, your child may
be entitled to recover damages via a civil suit. Let Attorney Pittman
puts his decades of legal experience to work for your family.
See Related Damages: