Recovering Punitive Damages for Victims in Drunk Driving Accidents
Virginia Beach Drunk Driving Accident Lawyer
Normally, the law leaves the issue of crime and punishment for the criminal courts. There is one exception, however: where civil courts award punitive damages. Over the years, punitive damages have been somewhat controversial. The issue comes up most often in automobile accidents where there has been drinking and driving on the part of the irresponsible driver. In general, an injury victim should receive full compensation for medical bills, disability, pain and suffering. But society so scorns drunk drivers that mere compensation is not enough. The law allows victims of a drunk driving accident to recover even more damages: “punitive damages” which are solely designed to punish the at-fault driver.
This issue is somewhat controversial because a drunk driver may land in civil court having already been punished. It is well-known that society has gotten much tougher with drunk drivers and that most will face some jail time, fines, higher insurance premiums, attorney’s fees, costs, etc. Another controversy has to do with who gets to keep punitive damages. If the idea is to punish the drunk driver, why should the injury victim receive a “windfall?”
The short answer is that our society and the laws it has created mandate things this way. When the responsible party is punished, the injury victim is able to receive enhanced damages.
In certain cases, the award of punitive damages can be quite significant. There is no special measure for these damages, and they are sometimes tied to the responsible party’s wealth and the extreme nature of the misconduct. The more reckless the behavior, the higher the punitive damages.
The issue of punitive damages raises a number of other challenges in a personal injury case, such as taxation, insurance coverage, and the discovery of assets and financial statements. These may be addressed in other blogs. The main point is that, when a case is properly investigated, the availability of punitive damages can make a significant difference and enhance the case’s settlement value. Focusing in on and deterring reckless behavior could and should be the focus of a competent personal injury lawyer in such cases.