Riverview & Brandon Personal Injury Cases from Drunk Driving
Drunk driving personal injury cases can be very contentious and difficult to litigate because the defendant (the drunk driver), who is typically represented by his car insurance company’s lawyers, will try to prevent the jury from knowing the most important fact – that he (or she) was drunk! Every year innocent people die or are catastrophically injured in the Riverview and Brandon area from the negligence of drunk drivers. Unfortunately, the hard facts are that Riverview, Brandon, Valrico, and the greater Tampa Bay area represent just a fraction of the tens of thousands killed and hundreds of thousands injured in drunk-driving crashes each year.
It seems self-evident, that drunk drivers and their insurance companies should have to pay more money to the plaintiff (the victim of the drunk driver), but the law does not make it easy. That’s why it is important that you’re Riverview personal injury attorney understand the legal loopholes that insurance companies that represent drunk drivers attempt to use. Attorneys for drunk drivers and their insurance companies typically try every legal maneuver in the book to prevent the jury from knowing the driver that caused the accident was drunk. Because, let’s face it, if you’re on a jury you’re likely going to award more money to a plaintiff if the person who caused the accident was drinking and driving. Why? Because the average person understands that accidents happen and even good people can innocently and accidentally cause another person’s injury. The insurance company lawyers for the drunk driver want to convince the jury that their client is one of these good people who made an honest mistake. What the insurance company does not want is for the jury to be angry at the defendant, the drunk driver, because these kind of juries tend to give the plaintiff a lot more of the insurance company’s money.
Drunk Driver’s Insurance Lawyers’ Strategy to Exclude Alcohol
One way insurance companies’ attorneys for drunk drivers attempt to prevent the jury from knowing the facts is to stipulate to liability. In easy terms, this “stipulate to liability” term means that the drunk driver admits that he or she caused the accident, so the jury no longer has to decide whose fault the accident was.
If the defendant’s attorneys stipulate to liability, the only things the jury must then decide is:
(1) If the accident caused the injuries the plaintiff is complaining of. For example, the jury must decide whether the plaintiff’s bulging disc in his neck is from the drunk-driving accident or was it a pre-existing injury.
(2) How much money the drunk driver and his insurance company have to pay the plaintiff to compensate for the plaintiff’s injuries.
After the stipulation to liability, the defendant’s lawyers (typically the lawyer for the drunk driver’s car insurance company) will file a legal paper called a motion in limine to convince the judge not to let the jury hear any mention that the defendant consumed alcohol or was drunk. If the judge grants this motion by the drunk driver’s lawyer, then the jury will only hear some plain vanilla statement like”the Defendant has admitted that he (or she) caused the accident.” The jury won’t get to hear any sordid details. Perhaps the defendant was legally drunk. Perhaps the defendant tried to flee the scene of the accident. Perhaps the defendant has been in trouble before for drinking and driving. The jury won’t get to hear any of these facts if the judge grants the drunk driver’s motion in limine. That’s where a good Riverview car accident law firm comes in with their own weapons to counter these legal moves by the drunk driver’s insurance company. One of the ways a Riverview personal injury lawyer can overcome the drunk driver’s attempt to conceal from the jury the fact that he or she was drunk is to argue that the personal injury victim is suffering from mental distress.
Drunk Driving Accident Victims can be Compensated with Mental Anguish Damages
Drunk-driving personal injuries and wrongful deaths at the hands of drunk drivers are tragedies – plain and simple But the unspoken tragedy is the mental anguish suffered by drunk-driving victims. Often drunk-driving victims are so distraught from the experience of being in an accident caused by a drunk driver, that it negatively affects their ability to drive and operate their own vehicle safely. Paranoid that other drivers on the road are as drunk as the drunk driver who caused their previous personal injury car accident, these drunk-driving accident victims find extreme difficulty in adjusting to life on the road after the Riverview drunk-driving accident.
As discussed above, a fact that the average person doesn’t realize is that in most civil trials involving personal injuries suffered by a drunk-driving victim, the jury is not allowed to know that the drunk driver was, in fact, drunk. Insurance company lawyers routinely persuade judges to exclude any mention that the person who caused the accident was drinking. But this is not always the case. If the judge is convinced that the victim of the drunk driving accident is suffering mental anguish and has a deep-seated fear of drunk drivers, then the judge will often allow evidence of the alcohol consumption so the jury knows that a drunk driver is being sued for personal injuries. But, convincing a judge to allow this evidence is not as simple as a drunk driving victim testifying in court months or years after the accident about all the ways the accident has affected his or her mental health.
Instead, the plaintiff drunk-driving victim must be able to show a documented history of ways in which the drunk-driving car accident has affected her, together with testimony of friends, family, doctors, and therapists that she has told about her mental anguish. Long-time friends or family members testifying as to change in mood and behavior of the plaintiff drunk driving victim before versus after the accident is a key piece of evidence. In addition, the notes of doctors or therapists the drunk driving victim has complained to about her mental anguish over the course of several visits is another key piece of evidence. The types of emotions complained of vary from paranoia when behind the wheel (or, in some cases, being around alcohol in general) to outright obsession with the idea of herself or family or friends being killed by a drunk driver in another accident. The bottom line is if you or a loved one has been the victim of a automobile accident caused by a drunk driver and you feel like you need to talk to someone, get into to see a therapist, psychologist, or social worker right away.
Beating the Drunk Driver’s Attorney – The Jury Should Know
Above, I mentioned the motion in limine and stipulation to liability that the drunk driver’s attorney will file to make sure the jury never knows that alcohol played a role in the vehicle collision. A key to countering this strategic maneuver by the drunk driver’s attorney is to show the judge that the fact that this was a drunk driver, that alcohol was involved, is still very important for the jury to hear. It is very important because the drunk driving victim not only suffered physical damages (i.e. broken bones, brain injury, back injury, bulging discs, etc.), but the plaintiff-victim is also suffering mental anguish. And, in order for my client to talk about his or her mental anguish in front of the jury, the topic of alcohol and drunk driving must be brought up. This is an excellent tool to counter the legal tricks of insurance companies so the jury knows the truth about the man or woman who decided to drink too much and cause a catastrophic accident.
Need Information about Drunk Driving Personal Injury Cases?
Don’t hesitate to call Frank Santini and The Frank Santini Law Firm at 813-445-6121. Frank Santini has received the highest possible attorney rating from Martindale-Hubbell and is recognized by Super Lawyers magazine.