While you can file a claim to receive compensatory damages, there is a chance that your drunk driving case can reward you with punitive damages as well. If your drunk driving case qualifies, you can get additional money on top of the actual damages you win.
Our lawyers can provide you with basic information on punitive damages and how they apply to know if you qualify. However, for a more concrete explanation in regards to your unique drunk driving accident claim, you’ll need to reach out to the lawyers at Morris Bart, LLC for more specific information.
Drunk Driving and Punitive Damages in Louisiana
Unlike the other 49 states, which have a legal system based on English common law, Louisiana law stems from French and Spanish codes. In keeping with that tradition, Louisiana does not allow punitive damages unless provided explicitly by statute.
The reason behind this dim view towards punitive damages is that under the civil code system, money damages are meant only to compensate the injured person and not to punish the wrongdoer who caused the injury. Instead, the purpose of the punitive damages law in Louisiana is to punish the drunk driver and reward the drunk driver’s victims.
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Can I Receive Punitive Damages for My Car Accident Injury?
How can you recover these exemplary, punitive damages for your car accident with a drunk driver? While La. C.C. art. 2315.4 entitles you with the right to punitive damages, recovery of this extra money requires proof of three things:
- The at-fault driver in the accident was intoxicated or had consumed a sufficient quantity of drugs or alcohol to make them lose standard control of their mental and physical faculties.
- Their intoxication was the cause-in-fact of your car accident injuries.
- The car accident injuries were caused by the drunk driver’s wanton or reckless disregard for the rights and safety of others.
What does this mean in layman’s terms? First, it means that you need to be able to prove that the driver was intoxicated and that, if the driver wasn’t drunk, you would have never entered into an accident with them.
When Can Punitive Damages Apply to My Case?
However, there are instances when important public policy considerations outweigh this overarching principle of the civil system. La. C.C. art. 2315.4, for example, allows for punitive damages in the cases where the at-fault party was driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
In order to prevail, the plaintiff in such cases must prove that:
- The defendant was operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated.
- That the defendant’s intoxication was the cause of the injuries to the plaintiff.
- That the defendant’s conduct was wanton or reckless.
If the plaintiff proves those elements as required by La. C.C. art.2315.4, the court may consider a monetary award for exemplary damages, which exists to punish the defendant’s inherently dangerous actions.
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How do I Prove I Was Involved in a Car Accident with a Drunk Driver?
The best way to prove a driver’s intoxication is a positive blood alcohol test. However, blood alcohol level is not the only way intoxication can be established for this law. Absent a blood alcohol test, a judge or jury will look at all of the circumstances surrounding the car accident to determine whether the at-fault driver had consumed a sufficient amount of alcohol or drugs to lose control of their mental and physical faculties.
This means that the judge or jury will rely on eyewitness testimony, photographs, the accident police report, written statements, hospital medical records, etc., to determine whether the driver was “drunk” for the purposes of this statute.
So what should you do if you’re involved in a car accident, and you suspect that the at-fault driver was intoxicated? First, tell the responding police officer about your suspicion. If the police officer asks you to submit a written statement, include in your statement that you suspect the driver was intoxicated.
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What to Do after a Drunk Driving Accident
Obtain the names, addresses, and phone numbers of anyone who witnessed the accident or the driver’s behavior before or after the car accident. Don’t rely on the police officer to gather this information from the witnesses. Finally, tell your personal injury attorney as soon as possible about your suspicion so that they can start gathering the necessary evidence that could end up putting more money in your pocket.
Should I Hire a Lawyer to Help Me?
Drunk driving kills one person every 52 minutes and injures countless more. Unfortunately, many of these drunk driving victims don’t hire a lawyer after an accident because they assume the insurance company will be fair in their settlement offers. Never believe that the insurance company is on your side. They will gladly give you a low settlement if it means saving them money.
When you file a claim and receive both a settlement and rewards for punitive damages, you not only get compensation for your damages, but you hold the negligent party accountable for their actions. Doing this alone can be extremely difficult.
By hiring legal representation, you allow yourself the ability to rest and recover while a dedicated and experienced lawyer handles your case on your behalf. Don’t run the risk of losing out on punitive damages and a settlement. It’s always good to hire a lawyer to assist you during this challenging time.
Contact Us about Your Car Accident Injury
If you have been involved in a car accident injury with a drunk driver, please contact Morris Bart, LLC today. We offer a free case evaluation with our personal injury attorneys, who will review the details of your case and advise you on the best approach to getting the compensation you deserve for your car accident injury.
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