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Florida Court Discusses Admissibility of Evidence of Intoxication in a Car Crash Case

People who drive while intoxicated often cause collisions and evidence of their intoxication at the time of the crash can typically be used to demonstrate their liability. If a drunk driver admits fault for a crash, however, evidence of their inebriation may not be admissible, as demonstrated in a recent Florida ruling. If you were injured in a crash caused by a drunk driver, it is critical to speak to a seasoned Florida car accident lawyer to assess your possible claims.

The Accident and Trial

Allegedly, the plaintiff was stopped at a red light when he was rear-ended by the defendant. An investigation revealed that the defendant was intoxicated at the time of the crash. The plaintiff suffered injuries in the collision and therefore filed a lawsuit against the defendant, asserting negligence claims and seeking punitive damages due to his intoxication. Prior to trial, the defendant stipulated his liability for the accident. He also admitted that if the plaintiff was granted compensatory damages, he would be entitled to punitive damages as well.

It is reported that, prior to trial, the defendant filed a motion to bifurcate the trial and to bar the plaintiff from introducing evidence of his intoxication during the compensatory damages phase, when the jury would determine whether the defendant caused the plaintiff’s harm and if so, the extent of his injuries. The court granted the motion with regard to bifurcation but ruled that the plaintiff could present evidence of the defendant’s intoxication. The jury granted the plaintiff over two and a half million dollars in compensatory damages, and the defendant appealed.

Admissibility of Evidence of Intoxication

On appeal, the defendant argued, among other things, that the trial court erred in permitting the plaintiff to introduce evidence of his intoxication. The appellate court agreed, stating that under Florida law, if a defendant concedes liability in a car accident case alleging negligence, and the sole remaining issue is the amount of compensatory damages that should be awarded, evidence regarding the defendant’s sobriety, or lack thereof, should not be admitted.

The court went on to note that, in such instances, there is no reason to admit evidence of intoxication in the first part of a bifurcated trial, other than to incite the jury and increase the amount of compensatory damages awarded. The court further explained that such evidence is both prejudicial and irrelevant. Based on the foregoing, the court found that the trial court committed an error in allowing the plaintiff to admit evidence of the defendant’s intoxication and ordered a new trial.

Meet with an Experienced Florida Car Accident Attorney

Accidents caused by drunk drivers often result in catastrophic harm. If you were injured in an auto accident brought about by a reckless motorist, you may be owed substantial damages, and it is in your best interest to meet with a lawyer as soon as possible. Ryan M. Cardoso is an experienced accident attorney, and he can advise you of your rights and help you to seek the full amount of damages recoverable under the law. You can contact Mr. Cardoso through the form online or at (850) 466-2073 to set up a conference.

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