When a drunk driver kills a loved one, it’s an especially painful time for those close to the victim. Most surviving members of a DUI fatality want to see justice, and for that, they have to rely on the criminal justice system.
In most state’s laws today, when an impaired driver kills someone, they are facing some sort of manslaughter charge, and the sentence can range from a few months to 10 years for a first offense.
But what happens next? It helps if the person faces justice and goes to prison. Yet, that doesn’t bring the loved one back or help out with the financial burden left to those close to the victim.
For example, in Florida, a 47-year-old man driving impaired turned left into the path of a motorcycle killing the rider. He received a charge of driving while impaired and manslaughter. Under Florida law, the mandatory sentence if convicted is 10 years, 4 months in prison and up to a $10,000 fine. In Florida, a judge can order financial restitution as well.
So, if the impaired driver receives the maximum sentence in this case, the question of whether justice was served arises. Shouldn’t the person have to pay for the damages they’ve done? Many people feel that justice isn’t served until the person pays compensation to those he or she has affected.
Criminal Restitution from Impaired Driver
If a judge orders criminal restitution for the damages to the victim’s family, they will only pay if they are able to. Under Florida law, collecting on an order of criminal restitution is difficult. The law treats it like a civil judgment.
Florida law allows for the protection of certain assets like a primary home, a car and a certain amount of cash and other personal property so that judgment won’t make them a pauper. This means that if the impaired driver is just a regular person without stocks, bonds, vacation property or other assets, the victim’s family won’t see a penny of the criminal restitution order.
This leaves the family with no other option but to sue the driver in civil court for all the damages and losses he imposed on the family. The impaired driver’s insurance will have to pay for the damages when sued for wrongful death in civil court.
Can I Sue Someone Who’s in Prison?
However, many people wonder if you can sue someone who is in prison or do you have to wait until they get out? Or, they worry the insurance company will refuse to pay for someone if their client committed a crime.
The truth is that you can sue someone while they are in prison. If they had an auto insurance policy at the time of the accident the law requires that the insurance company pay for the damages. Even if the driver was committing a crime at the time of the offense.
An insurance policy will pay for all financial losses that come from the insured person’s negligence. This allows the family to collect compensation for all losses. These include:
- Medical bills: If the deceased had medical treatment before he or she died.
- Pain and Suffering: If they went through any pain or suffering before they died, pain and suffering can be claimed.
- Funeral Expenses: You can claim the costs associated with a funeral and burial.
- Loss of Financial Support: Those who were being supported by the deceased can claim loss of past and future financial support.
- Loss of Consortium/Championship: Loss of spousal companionship and loss of companionship based on other relationships like father, mother, brother, sister, etc. have financial value.
What if the Impaired Driver Didn’t have Insurance?
If the impaired driver didn’t have insurance, then the policy of the deceased might come into play. If the policy had an uninsured/underinsured UM/UIM provision, then the family could seek the damages from the deceased’s.
Florida law does not require a motorist to have UM/UIM. But it can purchased in Florida, and many drivers have that coverage. This will also help if the impaired driver’s insurance caps out before paying for all damages. Then the underinsured part of the provision will pay where the driver’s policy ended up to the cap on the UM/UIM coverage.
For almost any survivor of a loved one who has suffered their loss at the hands of an impaired driver, it’s not just about the money, but it’s about justice. Money won’t bring their mom, dad, son or daughter back, but it can help relieve the stress and anxiety especially if those left behind were counting on financial support from the deceased. It also provides some sense that justice is served fully when the impaired driver is sued in civil court and has to pay monetarily for their deeds.
Do I Need an Attorney?
In many cases, an attorney might not be necessary to make a claim against someone’s insurance policy if they hit you. However, there are certain legal requirements, deadlines, and other possible pitfalls when it comes to making a wrongful death claim, so the best thing to do is to at least talk to one.
The personal injury team at RHINO Lawyers know the law and they have the experience to battle the insurance companies to get you the compensation you and your family deserves. Talk to them at a free consultation and take the first step necessary to begin getting justice for your loved one.