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Leyritz case illustrates difference in civil and criminal liability for Fort Lauderdale drunk driving accidents

The drunk driving manslaughter trial of former Yankee star Jim Leyritz — which ended last week in a not-guilty verdict in a Broward County courtroom — illustrates the difference between criminal and civil liability.

A victim may seek damages for injuries stemming from a drunk driving accident in Fort Lauderdale, regardless of whether the defendant is ever convicted of a crime. In this case, a wrongful death settlement was reached for the $250,000 policy limits and Leyritz has agreed to pay the widow and the couple’s son $1,000 a month for 100 months beginning next year.

Leyritz, a former pro baseball player, was acquitted this week of DUI manslaughter charges, which could have sent him to prison for 15 years. He was found guilty of first-offense DUI, which carries a maximum penalty of 6 months in jail. This case is an important reminder that a driver does not have to be found criminally negligent to be held civilly responsible.

In fact, an at-fault driver does not have to be identified at all. In cases where a hit-and-run accident causes injury, or when an at-fault driver is an uninsured or underinsured motorist, an experienced attorney may be able to help you collect damages from your own insurance carrier.

The 46-year-old was accused of running a red light while out celebrating his 44th birthday with friends. The accident, which occurred three days after Christmas 2007, killed the 30-year-old mother as she was on her way home from her job as a bartender.

Nor did the alleged negligence of the victim in this case prevent her family from reaching a wrongful death settlement. Defense lawyers argued she was drunker than Leyritz, may have been speeding and was receiving text messages and phone calls in the moments before the accident.

Those seriously injured in a traffic accident should always consult a Fort Lauderdale injury lawyer to discuss their rights. Too often, a victim fails to take the steps necessary to protect his or her rights in the wake of a serious or fatal accident.

Freeman & Mallard is a South Florida personal injury and wrongful death law firm dedicated to helping motorists who have been injured in Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach and the Port St. Lucie/Fort Pierce areas. Call today for a free consultation. 1-800-529-2368.

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