Can I Recover Punitive Damages for an Accident Caused by a Drunk Driver?

When you’ve been involved in a difficult car accident, you may be entitled to financial compensation from the at-fault party, in order to account for your injuries and personal trauma. However, if that car crash was caused by an intoxicated driver, you may be eligible to pursue additional compensation in the form of “punitive damages.”

At Hare, Wynn, Newell & Newton, LLP, our experienced auto accident lawyers in Birmingham are ready to help injury victims throughout Alabama and Kentucky.

Types of Damages: Punitive vs. Compensatory

In most states, you can bring a personal injury lawsuit against the negligent driver who caused your accident. When you suffer serious injuries in a crash, your mounting expenses may include lost wages, vehicle damage, and medical bills – all of which fall under the category of “compensatory damages,” and maybe recovered from the at-fault party.

Compensatory damages are supposed to “make the plaintiff whole,” so the amounts awarded can vary dramatically from case to case. While some accident victims may only need $50k to cover their medical procedures and short-term costs, for instance, others may be looking at a lifetime of intensive medical care. As a result, there are few statewide caps on this type of compensation.

In addition to the standard compensatory damages, some plaintiffs may also be able to recover punitive damages. Intended to penalize the negligent party for their harmful actions, this form of compensation is awarded only in the most extreme circumstances and may be subject to damage caps. Under Alabama Code 1-11-20, plaintiffs seeking punitive damages also have to clearly demonstrate that the other driver showed “reckless or conscious disregard of the rights or safety of others.” In Kentucky Statutes 411.184, a similar rule applies, with the law requiring “evidence that the defendant… acted toward the plaintiff with oppression, fraud or malice”

Recovering Damages from Drunk Drivers

Although the bar is set high for punitive damages, drunk driving often meets this criterion and qualifies as “reckless or conscious disregard.” This is because it is widely understood that drunk driving poses an extreme risk to everyone on the road, and all states require prospective drivers to pass a licensing test that acknowledges this fact.

In order to get punitive damages, your attorney will need to show clear evidence that the other driver was intoxicated. It also needs to be clear that the driver was actually at fault for your accident in the first place: Otherwise, you will not be able to get your compensatory damages, let alone any punitive measures.

Fighting for Justice in Drunk Driving Accidents

When you turn to Hare, Wynn, Newell & Newton, LLP, our skilled personal injury law firm in Birmingham can put more than 130 years of experience to use in your favor. We’ll investigate every aspect of your drunk driving claim, and pursue every possible avenue of compensation available to you under the circumstances. With honesty, compassion, and care, our team can give you the sound legal advice you deserve after a serious crash.

For more information, call 800-568-5330 today and schedule your consultation.

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