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DUI driver owes $35M to victims' family

The drunk driver who killed a retired couple in a 2009 Florida car accident must pay $35 million to relatives of the victims. The Miccosukee man has been ordered to pay $5 million in punitive damages in connection with the case; that money is designed to serve as a punishment for the man's poor decision-making. The remaining $30 million, a massive sum by any account, is set aside for direct compensation in the matter. Those compensatory damages are often used to pay for medical costs, pain and suffering, emotional distress and a variety of other claims.

Not only will the man be subject to the civil penalties awarded in this case; he is also serving a 12-year prison term for two DUI manslaughter convictions. He pleaded guilty to the charges in 2010.

Authorities report that the man's blood alcohol level was extraordinarily high at the time of the crash; officers measured his BAC at more than three times the legal limit of 0.08 percent. The man crossed the center line while driving in West Miami-Dade, striking the victims' vehicle and causing catastrophic injuries. The two victims, age 63, were visiting Florida to attend an art show and enjoy a vacation.

Even though the judgment appears to be in the best interest of the family, the case has taken a decidedly different turn since it deals with the man's tribal governing body. The man is a member of the Miccosukee tribe, who have been facing massive financial problems because of IRS complaints that gambling taxes were never paid. Until that financial matter can be resolved, it is unlikely that the victims' relatives will actually receive compensation for the crash. Affidavits from the man's attorneys indicate that their client has almost no money.

In such injury cases, surviving victims are encouraged to solicit the help of qualified personal injury attorneys to maximize the outcome of the civil proceedings. Even though some mitigating factors may prevent the victims' relatives from receiving the entirety of the settlement, the family did win a legal victory against the at-fault driver.

Source: www.miamiherald.com, "Jury award in West Miami-Dade double fatality DUI crash: $35 million" David Ovalle, Sep. 30, 2013

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