Drunk drivers continue to cause thousands of accidents every year, in spite of harsh consequences and aggressive law enforcement practices. Often a drunk driving accident results in catastrophic injuries that last a lifetime. Tragically, some victims will not even survive the accident. Because drunk driving is caused by an illegal act, victims of drunk driving accidents may be able to seek punitive damages from the drunk drivers.
What Are Punitive Damages?
Punitive damages are a special kind of damages that are not available in every personal injury case. Punitive damages are designed to punish actions that go beyond simple negligence. These damages are supposed to help deter people from making the same kinds of dangerous choices in the future. In order to be awarded punitive damages, you will need to show that the driver acted with a conscious disregard for the safety of others.
Who Pays Them?
The California Supreme Court has ruled that punitive damages are not insurable. This means that if you are awarded punitive damages, they come out of the pocket of the other driver. A jury is allowed to consider the financial situation of the drunk driver when deciding on the appropriate amount of punitive damages.
Not every driver will have enough money to pay punitive damages; in fact, many will not. But, if you are awarded punitive damages you may be able to seek a lien against any real estate or possibly even seek to have the drunk driver’s wages garnished.
You and your lawyer will have to weigh the wisdom of seeking punitive damages under the circumstances of your case.
Reasons to Seek Punitive Damages
Punitive damages may help your overall situation in several ways. If you win punitive damages and are able to collect them, you increase the compensation you receive for your injuries. If you have a strong case for punitive damages, you may be able to use them as a bargaining chip in negotiations, before your claim even reaches a courtroom. Punitive damages may also be appropriate as a way to send a message about the conduct of the other driver, even if you have little hope of ever collecting them.
Because every case is unique, it is important to consult with a personal injury lawyer familiar with punitive damages before making any decisions about your car accident claim.
If a drunk driver has injured you, then you need a skilled San Jose personal injury lawyer right away. Call the Law Office of John J. Garvey, III today at 408-293-7777 to schedule a consultation.
While this website provides general information, it does not constitute legal advice. The best way to get guidance on your specific legal issue is to contact a lawyer. To schedule a meeting with the attorney, please call at 408-293-7777 or complete the intake form below.