Drunk driving crashes are some of the worst car crashes, and can lead to serious injuries as well as damage to your car. In the worst cases, drunk driving accidents can even lead to death.
You probably know that if another driver is responsible for your accident, you can recover compensation from them through a personal injury lawsuit. However, if that driver was intoxicated, you may be able to recover additional compensation, known as “punitive damages.”
Below, experienced Louisiana car accident attorney Davey Jones explains what punitive damages are and how you can recover them in the case of a drunk driving accident.
A Brief Explanation of Punitive Damages
Most lawsuits result in the awarding of “compensatory damages,” which cover expenses such as medical bills, lost wages, and car repair costs.
“Punitive damages,” on the other hand, are awarded to compensate victims and punish wrongdoers for damages resulting from a drunk driving crash or another intentional act.
Punitive damages are not designed to compensate those hurt in the accident. Rather, punitive damages are intended to punish the at-fault party for reckless conduct and hopefully prevent such conduct from occurring again. In other words, punitive damages are meant to punish the offending party.
In Louisiana, punitive damages are restricted to cases in which a party acts in an egregiously careless manner.
Here are some examples of cases in which an aggrieved party can receive punitive damages:
- Domestic abuse
- Deaths caused by hazing
- Sexual crimes involving a minor
- Drunk driving accidents
However, the victim’s attorney must specifically request punitive damages in order to receive them. That means you need an experienced personal injury attorney on your side.
How to Recover Punitive Damages After a Drunk Driving Accident
In order to recover punitive damages from a drunk driver, you need to prove an “aggravating factor” is present. The most common way to prove an “aggravating factor” is to show that the driver acted with willful or wanton disregard for your well-being. Proving that they acted negligently or even with gross negligence isn’t enough.
This means that there is a higher burden of proof to justify receiving punitive damages, and your claim must be backed by convincing evidence. If your personal injury attorney cannot provide such evidence to satisfy this stringent burden, punitive damages will not be awarded.
There are 4 steps to recovering punitive damages after a drunk driving accident:
- Document the scene of the accident. Take photos and videos of the damage, take the names and contact information of witnesses, and write down everything that you remember, including the other driver’s speech and actions.
- File a complaint alleging the aggravating factor. This legal document pinpoints the negligent party, details the claim, and explains that you are seeking punitive damages in addition to compensatory damages.
- Follow up on the results of the drunk driver’s arrest. A criminal investigation can provide vital evidence, such as a failed sobriety test, a breathalyzer test, or a blood test.
- Present your evidence to the court. If the judge determines punitive damage awards are justified, the drunk driver will be legally obligated to pay the sum.
Find an Attorney Willing to Embrace the Challenge of Punitive Damages Claims
Some personal injury attorneys shy away from client requests to pursue punitive damages claims. And plenty of attorneys lack the experience necessary to get all the compensation you deserve in a drunk driving case.
The defendant’s insurance company and opposing counsel will undoubtedly argue the driver was sober at the time of the accident, regardless of evidence that shows otherwise. This is precisely why drunk driving victims need an attorney on their side with experience seeking punitive damages and the drive to go the extra mile.
Going the extra mile means seeking out every piece of evidence needed to prove the driver’s wanton disregard for others justifies the request and payment of punitive damages. This can include any of the following:
- The defendant’s bar tab on the evening of the accident
- Posts on social media
- Eyewitness accounts of the accident
- The police report and details of any criminal investigation
Contact The Jones Law Firm Today
Our personal injury attorneys are here to do the legal legwork on your behalf. We will review your case, determine if there is solid legal footing for punitive damages, and start your quest for justice. If you’ve been involved in an automobile accident caused by a drunk driver, contact Jones Law Firm right away.