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Liability In Port St. Lucie Substance Impairment Crashes


At the end of 2018, Utah will be the first state to impose a .05 BAC limit on drivers in the state. Other jurisdictions are watching this development very closely, and they may follow suit.

Many believe that a lower BAC breath limit may reduce the number of alcohol-related collisions. Right now, alcohol is a factor in about a third of the fatal car crashes in Florida. Others, however, believe that a lower limit will only lead to more arrests and more crowded jails. Time will tell.

In criminal court, prosecutors must establish intoxication beyond a reasonable doubt. In Florida, a .08 BAC, which is about three drinks for most adults, proves intoxication as a matter of law. In civil court, where the burden of proof is lower, victim/plaintiffs have multiple options to obtain needed compensation in these cases.

This compensation generally includes both economic damages, such as medical bills, and noneconomic damages, such as pain and suffering. In extreme cases, such as a very high BAC or extreme drug impairment, additional punitive damages may be available as well. A Stuart personal injury attorney can obtain these damages if the tortfeasor intentionally disregarded a known risk.

Direct Evidence of Impairment

When first responders arrive on the scene of a crash, they almost always request chemical samples if the tortfeasor (negligent driver) displays any symptoms of alcohol consumption. These symptoms include:

  • Erratic driving,
  • Unsteady balance,
  • Odor of alcohol, and
  • Bloodshot eyes.

If responders arrest the tortfeasor for DUI, as is almost always the case in these situations, the negligence per se doctrine usually applies. This rule establishes liability for damages as a matter of law. It applies if the tortfeasor violates a penal safety law, such as the DUI law, and the violation substantially caused the crash.

Note that even if the tortfeasor is not convicted of DUI in criminal court, the negligence per se rule may still apply. In St. Lucie County, the jury determines all the facts in the case.

Circumstantial Evidence of Impairment

As mentioned, three drinks intoxicates most adults. But impairment begins with the first drink. So, if the tortfeasor consumed alcohol, the tortfeasor may be liable for damages. Evidence of consumption includes the items mentioned above, like odor of alcohol.

The burden of proof in civil cases is only a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not). So, if the tortfeasor recently visited a place that served alcohol, be it a bar, restaurant, or whatever, it is more likely than not that the tortfeasor also consumed alcohol and was therefore impaired.

Alcohol is not the only impairing substance. Many street drugs, prescription drugs, and over-the-counter medicines have the same effect. Assuming the purchase was legal and the prescription was valid, it’s not illegal to acquire or consume these substances. But, it’s always unsafe to drive under their influence.

Circumstantial evidence of drug use may include things like open pill bottles, active prescriptions, and glassy eyes.

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. We do not charge upfront legal fees in negligence cases.



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