If you have been injured in a car accident, there are a number of damages you can receive to compensate you for your injuries. You can receive compensation for the costs of medical treatment needed to recover from your injuries. You can obtain damages for your pain and suffering. In most cases, you can even receive payments for the time you miss from work to recover or lost job opportunities. However, often times it is not possible to attain punitive damages. This is not always the case if you have been injured due to an accident caused by a drunk driver.
Punitive damages are a special type of damages that are not awarded to compensate you for the damages you sustain or your pain and suffering. Rather, punitive damages are awarded to punish the person who injured you for their particularly reckless or egregious behavior, and to deter this type of behavior in the future. In order to receive a punitive damages award, you must be able to prove by clear and convincing evidence that the person who injured you engaged in willful or wanton conduct, or “conduct purposefully committed which the actor must have realized as dangerous, done heedlessly and recklessly, without regard to consequences, or of the rights and safety of others.”
There is no question that driving under the influence (DUI) is extremely dangerous and illegal. Drunk drivers have decreased reaction times, are prone to speeding and generally make poor driving decisions. In fact, nearly 500,000 Americans are injured as the result of a drunk driver every year, and about 17,000 people are killed.
In Colorado, many victims of a drunk driver have been awarded punitive damages. This is because every reasonable driver knows that it is dangerous to drive under the influence, and that when they do, they are purposefully and recklessly endangering the lives and wellbeing of others.
So, the simple answer to your question of whether you can receive punitive damages if you've been injured by a drunk driver is YES.
However, there are a few things you should know about seeking punitive damages. First, even if a jury awards you punitive damages, the judge can always disallow them if they feel the award will not deter the driver from future violations or that deterrence can be achieved by other means. Second, you cannot receive punitive damages in an amount greater than your actual damages. This means that if your medical, pain and suffering, and lost work or work opportunities damages total $500,000, the maximum award of punitive damages you can obtain will be $500,000.
If you or a loved one have been injured by a drunk driver, you need a knowledgeable personal injury attorney who is familiar with the law on punitive damages and who will fight to get you the compensation you deserve. At The Law Office of Jeremy Rosenthal, our experienced personal injury attorneys know the complexities involved in pursuing punitive damages, especially in DUI cases. We will thoroughly investigate the cause(s) of your accident, including all parties who could be liable, and will help you understand your rights and legal options. For a free consultation with one of our knowledgeable Colorado lawyers, call us today for a free consultation at (303) 647-4511 orvisit us online.