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Visibly Intoxicated Drivers: What Are Valets Required To Do?


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There have been a number of ongoing debates all across the U.S. regarding valet parking attendants’ responsibilities with respect to visibly intoxicated drivers. The families of victims who have been injured and/or lost their lives due to valet attendants giving visibly intoxicated drivers their keys back often seek to hold those attendants liable for sending the drivers out into the streets while clearly being impaired.

The city of West Palm Beach experiences its share of drunk drivers daily and unfortunately those drunk drivers cause serious injuries when the cause car accidents. What’s more, our firm has seen an increase in drinking and driving accidents that also involve valet drivers and others who are operating someone else’s car. In the event there was an car crash with an intoxicated driver, especially a valet, our Boca Raton and West Palm Beach injury lawyers will tell you that holding valet workers culpable for such events will be a difficult task, but success with the right injury lawyer is possible.

For instance, if a drunk driver caused damage to your car in West Palm Beach your personal injury lawyer you hire will need to be keenly aware of how Florida Court’s hold those violators responsible. Florida courts have repeatedly ruled that valet parking companies are not legally required to withhold an obviously intoxicated customer’s car keys from him or her.

But the question remains for many people–why shouldn’t valet attendants be held legally responsible to some extent for what occurs to a driver and/or others on the road after he or she gets behind the wheel of a motor vehicle? While the issue may seem to be clear cut for most lay people, the courts do have their reasons.

Why Valets Aren’t Being Held Responsible

In actions that involve negligent entrustment issues, courts have noted that a crucial element of such cause of action is that the individual (or company) charged with liability have a “superior right” to control the property. In cases of car owners and valets, the valet is what is known as a “bailee,” which means that the valet is someone who holds someone else’s property pursuant to an agreement made between the parties. That being the case, a valet does not have a legal right to refuse to return a motor vehicle to its rightful owner/operator.

Simply put, valets cannot be held legally liable for negligent entrustment of a vehicle to its rightful owner/operator. In fact, as just about any Boca Raton or West Palm personal injury lawyer will tell you, if a valet fails to return a vehicle to the owner, they could be sued by the owner/operator of the vehicle and ultimately found liable for conversion or theft.

When considering other reasons why valets in Florida should not be held responsible for accidents that occur after a visibly intoxicated individual leaves the premises, thought must be given to the fact that in many instances, valet workers are underage individuals who are simply trying to make a few dollars at an honest job. Would it be proper to expect a teenager to be able to discern whether or not a person is too intoxicated to drive and hold him or her responsible if the driver gets into an accident later on? Ultimately, there would be an influx of lawsuits surrounding this issue, which would lead some to ask, “Where would it all end?”

Car Accidents Due To Drunk Drivers

However, should a drunk driver run a red light, or do something else blatantly negligent, it is still advisable to investigate and research where the intoxicated person was coming from such as a hotel, bar, or other drinking establishment. For instance, police officers, such as the Palm Beach County Sherriff’s Office will use several different types of tests to determine if someone was driving under the influence and caused an accident with injuries. Some of these tests are:

  1. Observations. Police officers are trained to determine if someone was operating a vehicle while under the influence by the observations they make after the person was pulled over, or worse yet, after they caused a car accident.
  2. Cops also use field sobriety tests to determine if the person who caused the accident is under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The most common field sobriety tests are referred to as the “standardized” FSTs: the walk-and-turn, the horizontal gaze nystagmus, and one-leg stand.
  3. In the event a car accident was caused by someone and there are serious injuries, the police officers will generally require the drunk driver to submit to a chemical test such as a “breathalyzer.” In cases where a person causes an accident that results in someone becoming seriously hurt or dies, then police officers will generally seek a warrant to test a person’s blood alcohol count (a.k.a. BAC)

Drunk Driving Accident Statistics And Car Crashes

It is never advisable to drink and drive or to use recreational drugs while operating a vehicle. Statistics have shown that people who operate a vehicle while drunk or on drugs are 10 times more likely to cause a serious or fatal traffic crash. Because it is so well known that this behavior is illegal and puts the public at a higher risk of injuries, Florida Courts have allowed car accident victims the right to pursue punitive damages.

Punitive damages can allow a jury to award money against a responsible party in order to “punish” the defendant for the extremely risky behavior. In Palm Beach County alone, case routinely are permitted to move forward with punitive damages. So, for instance, if a driver under the influence causes a car accident in West Palm Beach, your lawyer may be able to get the Court’s permission to pursue these additional damages to for the injured person, in cases where the driver of the car is found to be under the influence.

What To Do If Injured In A Car Accident From A Drunk Driver?

Anyone who has been injured or is the victim of a drunk driving accident that occurred after the driver was given his or her keys back from a valet should contact our personal injury lawyers located throughout Palm Beach County with law offices in Boca Raton and West Palm Beach; we are the injury and accident lawyers you need at the Shiner Law Group.

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