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.
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.
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.
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.
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