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Drunk Driving Accidents and Punitive Damages

Alcohol, Keys and GavelDespite severe consequences, aggressive enforcement, and countless awareness campaigns, drunk drivers continue to cause thousands of accidents every year. A drunk driving accident often 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 in addition to compensation for medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering.

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 intended 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, not his or her insurance company. A jury may 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 with a judgment for 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 need 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 negotiating a favorable settlement. 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. To learn more about your options, contact an experienced Monterey County auto accident attorney at Corsiglia McMahon & Allard, L.L.P today. Call (408) 298-7200 for a free, confidential consultation today.

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