When Punitive Damages May Be Awarded After a Drunk Driving Accident
Every 90 seconds someone is injured by a drunk driver and every 50 minutes, someone dies because of a drunk driving car accident according to statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The rates are staggering & the loss is devastating. Although it can be difficult to recover from a drunk driving personal injury, punitive damages can restore peace of mind.
What Are Punitive Damages?
There are two types of monetary compensation that can be awarded to a plaintiff in a car accident: compensatory damages—which include medical expenses, incurred losses and property damages, and punitive damages. “Punitive damages” are additional compensation awarded to punish certain conduct. As it pertains to a drunk driving accident, punitive damages serve two purposes: to compensate the victim of the accident and to punish the drunk drivers’ careless and reckless behavior.
By Louisiana law, punitive damages—or exemplary damages– may be used to make an example out of a drunk driver. If people see that causing a car accident while driving drunk has a huge financial consequence, in addition to how it affects their insurance premium and possible jail time, they are less likely to drive while intoxicated. In other words, it is a statute in place for education and prevention for drunk drivers that cause car accidents.
What Do I Do If I Think the Driver Was Drunk at the Time of the Car Accident?
If you have been in a car accident, and you think the other driver was under the influence of alcohol/drugs, you should:
- Immediately report the car accident to the authorities. Tell the responding officer that you suspect the other driver in the car accident may be drunk. Include this suspicion in any written statements you make. Additionally, obtain a copy of the police report of the car accident and immediately contact a personal injury attorney.
- Take photographs. Write down as many details as you can about how the accident happened.
- Record eyewitness testimonies of the other driver’s conduct. Get their contact information.
- Consider seeking legal counsel before talking to your insurance company.
How Does a Judge or Jury Know If the Driver Was Intoxicated at the Time of the Car Accident?
There are many ways a judge or jury can determine that the driver was impaired beyond normal function in a car accident which an experienced personal injury attorney can attempt to establish at trial. The most reliable way to determine the driver’s level of intoxication at the time of a car accident is a Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) test. If a breathalyzer is refused or a sobriety test was not administered after the car accident, an experienced personal injury attorney can use other methods to prove that you were the victim of a drunk driving car accident. A strong, experienced personal injury attorney can use the information you gathered as evidence to help prove that the driver was drunk, even in the absence of a BAC or sobriety test. The judge or jury will consider these circumstances when deciding whether to award punitive damages for drunk driving in a car accident.
The following factors determine whether punitive damages are awarded in a lawsuit stemming from injuries due to a car accident:
- The driver was acting wantonly and in negligence of others’ safety.
- The driver caused physical damage while driving.
- The driver was impaired by alcohol or drugs.
- The driver’s intoxication was a “cause-in-fact” of your injury.
(Louisiana Civil Code Article 2315.4)
If you have suffered an auto accident injury caused by a drunk driver or have any questions about punitive damages, it is critical to seek advice from an experienced personal injury attorney. By Louisiana state law, your case may qualify for punitive damages stemming from injuries related to a car accident in which the other driver was intoxicated. Call Scott Vicknair, LLC today and we will have an experienced personal injury attorney review your case. Our personal injury lawyers may be able to recover the compensation to which you are entitled.