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How Would A Lower BAC Limit Affect Treasure Coast Car Crash Claims?


Lawmakers in several jurisdictions have already considered such a measure as a way to reduce car crash fatalities, and based on a new report, more states may soon follow suit.

This National Academy of Sciences report proposes that states reduce the Blood Alcohol Content threshold from .08 to .05. In the 1990s, most states moved from a .10 limit to the current .08, and the number of alcohol-related car wrecks fell significantly. However, some other innovations that appeared at about that same time, such as ignition interlock devices and DUI roadblocks, may have contributed to the drop even more than a lower limit. Nevertheless, many researchers are convinced that a lower limit is justified. Most European countries have a .05 threshold, and for the most part, alcohol-related crashes are quite rare on the other side of the Pond.

Utah’s .05 BAC limit takes effect December 30, 2018, and New York lawmakers are set to consider a similar proposal.

The Effect on First Party Liability in Florida

By 2030, alcohol-related crashes might be a moot issue in Port St. Lucie and elsewhere. Autonomous vehicles may not completely eliminate car wrecks, but they will almost certainly reduce them by as much as 90 percent, according to some estimates. But for now, alcohol is a serious issue on Florida roadways. Many lawmakers feel compelled to “do something” about the problem.

A lower BAC threshold would tremendously impact the negligence per se rule in alcohol-related crashes. This legal shortcut is available if the tortfeasor (negligent driver) violated a safety law, such as DUI, speeding, following too closely, or some other such provision, and that violation substantially caused the victim/plaintiff’s damages.

So, in a negligence per se case, the plaintiff need only establish two elements; in a traditional negligence case, the plaintiff must establish five elements. Typically, negligence per se establishes legal liability as a matter of law, but in some cases, it only raises a presumption of liability.

Depending on age, weight, gender, alcohol tolerance, and some other factors, two or three drinks usually results in a .05 BAC. Driving impairment occurs at lower levels as well. Even one drink adversely affects motor skills and judgement ability. Due to the low standard of proof in civil cases (a preponderance of the evidence, or more likely than not), evidence that the tortfeasor was at a place where alcohol is served is tantamount to evidence of impairment.

How Would a Lower Limit Affect Damages in Florida?

If they sustain serious injuries, all Port St. Lucie car crash victims are entitled to compensatory damages for things like medical bills, pain and suffering, lost wages, and emotional distress. Moreover, if there is evidence of reckless conduct, the victim/plaintiff may be entitled to additional punitive damages. An extremely high BAC level may qualify as such.

Under current Florida law, a .24 BAC is three times the legal limit. That’s the level which many jurors consider excessive. If the threshold goes down, a .15 BAC would be three times the legal limit.

Victim/plaintiffs must establish recklessness by clear and convincing evidence. In some cases, a punitive damages cap may apply.

Join with Tenacious Lawyers

A lower BAC threshold could substantially change the landscape of alcohol-related crash claims.  For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in Port St. Lucie, contact Eighmie Law Firm, P.A. We do not charge upfront legal fees in negligence cases.



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