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Motor Vehicle Accidents

Admitting blood-alcohol test results in civil cases

Blood-alcohol test results can be crucial to the success of a motor vehicle case.  Admission of those results, however, will depend upon their relevance.  § 316.1934(2), Fla. Stat. (2011) provides:

 [U]pon the trial of any civil or criminal action or proceeding arising out of acts alleged to have been committed by any person while driving, or in actual physical control of, a vehicle while under the influence of alcoholic beverages or controlled substances, when affected to the extent that his normal faculties were impaired or to the extent that he was deprived of full possession of his normal faculties, the results of any test administered in accordance with section 316.1932 or section 316.1933 and this section shall be admissible into evidence when otherwise admissible . . . .

§ 316.1934(2) also sets forth various legal presumptions associated with different blood-alcohol levels.  For example, pursuant to § 316.1934(2)(a), a person with a blood-alcohol level of .05 or below is presumed “not to be under the influence of alcoholic beverages to the extent that his normal faculties were impaired.”  These legal presumptions are rebuttable and a party may attack the reliability of the testing procedures, the qualifications of the analyst and the standards used in determining the different levels of intoxication.

Significantly, the test results must be relevant to be admissible. See § 90.402, Fla. Stat. (2011).  A test result is relevant if it indicates the amount of alcohol consumed effected a driver’s “reactions and perceptions.”  Grant v. Brown, 429 So. 2d 1229 (Fla. 5th DCA 1983), cert. denied., 438 So.2d 1229 (Fla. 1983).  Grant involved a claim for personal injuries arising out of an automobile accident.  The defendant failed to stop at a stop sign and collided with Grant in the intersection.   Grant was driving within the speed limit and had the right of way.  While in the emergency room, the hospital staff took blood samples as part of its treatment effort and Grant’s blood-alcohol level was .064.  An expert testified that Grant’s blood-alcohol level would have been .109, at the least, and .124, at the most, at the time of the accident.  The defendant cited his expert’s testimony and argued that plaintiff’s “reactions and perceptions were not as sharp as they should have been, and that, had he not been affected by alcohol, he could have avoided or minimized the accident.”  The court noted that the test results were extremely damaging and represented the “only evidence of any contributory negligence.”  Nevertheless, the court admitted the test results as hospital records.  The court held that “driver impairment because of alcoholic consumption is a factor the jury was entitled to weigh and consider.”

The presumptions found in § 316.1934(2), Fla. Stat. could illustrate the correlation between the test results and the alcohol’s effect on a driver’s reactions and perceptions.  The admission will also hinge upon an expert’s interpretation of the test results and whether the results demonstrate a driver’s impairment at the time of the accident.

If you, or someone you know, have been injured as the result of negligence, medical malpractice or a dangerous or defective product, contact me at (305) 358-3109 or mmazzarella@hannonboyers.com today for a free evaluation of your claim.

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Author

Matthew Mazzarella is a trial attorney at Hannon & Boyers, P.A.

Warning

The comments on this blog are provided for informational purposes only and DO NOT constitute legal advice or create an attorney-client relationship.

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