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Can a Plaintiff Who is Drunk When an Accident Occurs Still Recover Damages?


Even though someone may act negligently and cause us injury, the law recognizes that all of us have an obligation to do what we can to protect ourselves, to try to avoid injury, or to try to minimize our own injuries, to the extent possible.

This is why if a plaintiff (the victim in a personal injury case) does something or fails to do something that causes or contributes to his or her own injury, the jury can apportion some fault to the plaintiff.

When Victims are Intoxicated

In some cases, a plaintiff may be under the influence of alcohol or drugs when an accident happens. A defendant will often defend a case by pointing out that the plaintiff was drunk, and thus could not fully appreciate his or her surroundings, or by arguing that the plaintiff was unsteady or “tipsy.”

Florida law says that for a jury to consider a victim’s own intoxication, thus reducing a victim’s recovery because of his or her own actions or omissions, the jury must find:

  1. that the victim’s facilities were impaired because of intoxication, or
  2. that the victim had a blood alcohol level of .08

If a jury finds that either of the above exists, it then must determine how much of the injury was caused by the victim’s own negligence. If the jury finds that the victim is more than 50% liable for his or her own injury because of the intoxication, the victim will recover nothing.

Contrast this with the way cases sounding in negligence normally work. Normally, if a plaintiff were to be 60% liable for his or her own injuries, 40% of the total verdict could still be recovered from the Defendant. But with a finding of (1) or (2) above, a plaintiff that was 60% liable would recover nothing at all.

Whether Intoxication Causes the Injuries

That bar to recovery only applies if the victim’s own negligence was caused by, or is a result of, the intoxication. It is up to the defendant to convince a jury that a victim’s negligence was due to intoxication.

Sometimes this is easy–for example, if a victim was driving drunk and did not see a stop sign, it is likely that the intoxication is what caused the victim to run through the intersection.

However, if a motorist were at a full stop and was rear-ended, how can it be argued that he was contributorily negligent? Experts may be needed to testify as to the effects of alcohol on a person’s senses, even if rear-ended.

Have you been injured as a result of an accident Contact the West Palm Beach personal injury attorneys at the Celeste Law Firm today to discuss ways to recover for your injuries.




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