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The Deadly Consequences of Impaired Driving: More Than Just Drunk Driving

Person driving a car while holding a beer bottle

Many people know that drunk driving is illegal and dangerous. But some of them might not know that driving under the influence of prescription drugs is also considered DUI in Florida, even if the driver has a prescription and took the prescribed amount. Nearly half of US drivers report recent use of prescription medicines. Especially worrying statistic, considering the effects that many prescription medications have on our ability to drive safely. Drugged driving crashes are as deadly as drunk driving crashes, leaving families shattered and lives lost. 

If you have suffered the loss of a loved one tragically taken in an accident caused by a drugged or drunk driver, seeking legal guidance can be crucial. While holding any impaired driver accountable can be challenging, especially during an already difficult time, experienced wrongful death attorneys can help navigate the complexities of your case and pursue justice.

The Deceptive Danger of Drunk Driving

While many understand the legal and ethical implications of drunk driving, the full scope of its dangers often goes unrealized. Many assume a BAC of 0.08 is the sole threshold for dangerous driving. However, statistics tell a sobering story. In 2020 alone, 2,041 lives were tragically lost in accidents involving drivers with BAC levels between 0.01 and 0.07. Even seemingly minimal alcohol consumption can have devastating consequences on your reflexes, judgment, and overall driving ability.

Even a small amount of alcohol’s impact on the body disrupts vital functions essential for safe driving, including:

  • Speed control: Maintaining a safe and consistent speed becomes difficult.
  • Information processing: Deciphering road signs, signals, and potential hazards takes longer.
  • Lane positioning and braking: Staying within your lane and stopping safely become increasingly challenging.
  • Visual functions: Tracking moving objects, crucial for driving, becomes compromised.
  • Multitasking ability: Juggling different tasks simultaneously, like driving and maintaining awareness, becomes significantly harder.
  • Coordination and steering: Precise movements and smooth control over the vehicle are impaired.
  • Emergency response: Reacting quickly to unexpected situations becomes sluggish and delayed.

When Medication Turns Into DUI in Florida

Under Florida Statute § 316.193, driving under the influence of any substance that impairs your ability to operate a vehicle safely is considered DUI, regardless of the substance or its origin. This means that even drivers with valid prescriptions and adhering to prescribed dosages can be held accountable if their medication affects their driving ability.

Florida law specifically targets two categories of substances beyond alcohol:

  • Schedule controlled substances: Chapter 893 of the Florida Statutes outlines various controlled substances, including many prescription pain medications. Operating a vehicle while under the influence of any listed substance, even when taken as prescribed, can constitute a DUI.
  • Illegal inhalants and intoxicants: Section 877.111 prohibits the use of certain inhalants and intoxicants, such as nitrous oxide, without a prescription. Driving under the influence of these substances, again, regardless of legality or dosage, qualifies as a DUI.

The consequences of drugged driving are no less severe than those of drunk driving. Studies reveal that drivers impaired by prescription drugs are more likely to engage in dangerous behaviors, including:

  • Confusion and disorientation: Difficulty processing information and maintaining awareness can significantly increase the risk of accidents.
  • Drowsiness and drifting: The sedative effects of some medications can lead to falling asleep at the wheel, potentially causing catastrophic accidents.
  • Aggressive driving: Certain medications can trigger aggression or impulsivity, leading to intentional harm or reckless behavior behind the wheel.
  • Risky and distracted driving: Impaired judgment and reaction times can increase the likelihood of reckless maneuvers and inattentiveness on the road.

Remember, these are just some of the potential dangers, and individual reactions to medications can vary. Even over-the-counter drugs or seemingly harmless combinations can impair driving ability unknowingly. 

Understanding Wrongful Death Claims After a DUI Accident

Losing a loved one in a car accident is devastating, and when caused by a driver under the influence, grief can be compounded by anger and a desire for accountability. Fortunately, legal options exist to help victims and their families in this difficult time. 

Unlike criminal cases seeking penalties, wrongful death lawsuits aim to financially compensate surviving family members for their losses. The burden of proof is lower than in criminal court, requiring evidence that “more likely than not,” the driver was under the influence at the time of the crash.

To build your case with the help of a wrongful death lawyer, several forms of evidence will be necessary to support your claim, including:

  • Breathalyzer or other influence detector results
  • Police reports
  • Officer testimony
  • Accident scene photos
  • Eyewitness accounts
  • Security or traffic camera footage

While no amount of money can truly replace the void left by losing a loved one, wrongful death lawsuits can help alleviate some of the financial burdens families face after such a tragedy. These lawsuits aim to recover damages incurred due to the accident, which can include:

  • Medical bills
  • Lost income and benefits
  • Pain and suffering
  • Funeral expenses
  • Emotional trauma
  • Loss of companionship

It’s important to understand that only certain relatives, such as spouses, children, parents, and dependent family members, can file these claims. Florida law imposes a two-year statute of limitations for wrongful death lawsuits from the date of death. Missing this deadline usually prevents pursuing a claim.

Take Action, Seek Justice

Losing a loved one in a DUI accident is unimaginable. Grief, anger, and the desire for accountability can overwhelm you during this time of immense pain. While no amount of justice can truly bring them back, pursuing a claim with the help of a wrongful death attorney can offer some form of solace and ensure those responsible are held accountable.

Remember, you don’t have to navigate this difficult legal path alone. Dolan Dobrinsky Rosenblum Bluestein understands the unique challenges families face after such a tragedy. Our dedicated and compassionate Miami wrongful death lawyers are available 24/7 to offer a free consultation. Call us now at 305-371-2692 or send us a message online and we will provide support and guide you through the legal process.