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Ft. Pierce Man Sentenced In Fatal DUI Crash

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A 25-year-old man will spend the next eleven-plus years in prison, and the following eight and a half years on supervised release, after he pleaded guilty to causing an August car wreck.

In the August 2018 truck crash, the defendant’s vehicle crossed the center line and hit another vehicle head-on. The collision killed the driver of the other car and seriously injured a passenger in the truck. The driver blew a .16 on the Breathalyzer, which is roughly twice the legal limit. St. Lucie County prosecutor Jonathon Libby said the plea was “a fair and just resolution” that took the victims’ families into account.

Mr. Libby was poised to ask a judge to revoke bond in the case, because the defendant had just pleaded guilty to a 2015 DUI in Tennessee.

Direct Evidence of Impairment in Port St. Lucie Car Crashes

In most cases, Florida’s BAC limit is .08. Effective December 30, 2018, Utah’s BAC limit drops from .08 to .05. Lawmakers in many other jurisdictions, including the Sunshine State, will watch the results closely and may follow suit.

Criminal safety violation charges like DUI and reckless driving give rise to the negligence per se shortcut in Florida injury claims. This doctrine applies if:

  • The tortfeasor (negligent driver) violates a criminal safety law, and
  • That violation substantially caused the victim/plaintiff’s injuries.

In other situations, such as speeding tickets and other non-criminal violations, Florida’s negligence per se rule only creates a presumption of negligence. Victim/plaintiffs must introduce additional evidence to obtain compensation for their injuries.

The tortfeasor does not need to be convicted of the charge in criminal court. In civil cases, the St. Lucie County jury determines all factual matters, including violation of a criminal statute.

Circumstantial Evidence of Impairment in Florida

Even if the driver does not have a BAC above the legal limit, or refuses to provide a breath or blood sample, the defendant can still be convicted of DUI. Typically, prosecutors use the field sobriety tests (walking a straight line, one-leg stand, and horizontal gaze nystagmus) to establish intoxication.

There is a significant difference between intoxication and impairment. Most people are not intoxicated until they consume at least three or four drinks. But impairment begins with the first sip of alcohol. So, to establish impairment in civil court, victim/plaintiffs may also use circumstantial evidence, like:

  • Erratic driving,
  • Bloodshot eyes,
  • Slurred speech, and
  • Odor of alcohol.

In criminal court, prosecutors must always prove intoxication beyond a reasonable doubt. But in civil court, victim/plaintiffs need only establish impairment by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not). That’s a much lower standard of proof.

Third-Party Liability in Port St. Lucie

Vicarious liability is difficult, but not impossible, to prove in Florida. The dram shop law sometimes holds commercial alcohol providers liable for damages if their impaired patrons cause injuries. Section 768.125 of the Florida Statutes applies if the tortfeasor was:

  • Under 21, or
  • Habitually addicted to alcohol.

Third-party liability is especially important in catastrophic injury cases, like wrongful death. Many times, the tortfeasor does not have enough insurance coverage to provide fair compensation.

In both first and third-party liability claims, damages in a Florida negligence case usually include compensation for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.

Contact Assertive Lawyers

Alcohol crash victims have several legal options. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in Port St. Lucie, contact Eighmie Law Firm, P.A. Attorneys can connect victims with doctors, even if they have no money or insurance.

Resource:

tcpalm.com/story/news/crime/st-lucie-county/2018/12/06/david-cole-huffman-fort-pierce-sentenced-11-years-dui-manslaughter/2231017002/

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