Can I Recover Punitive Damages for an Accident Caused by a Drunk Driver?

Posted on behalf of James Lynch on April 3, 2019  in Car Accident News. Updated on February 24, 2022

drunk drivingDrunk-driving crashes can cause serious injuries and deaths in many cases. If victims or their loved ones can prove the driver was drunk, they may be entitled to compensation for damages caused by the crash. Since driving drunk is extremely reckless, victims may also be entitled to punitive damages. This form of compensation is awarded not to compensate victims for specific losses, but for other purposes. Find out what you need to know about punitive damages below.

If you or a loved one was injured in a car accident caused by a drunk driver, contact a skilled New Jersey car accident lawyer today to learn about your legal rights, including whether you may be entitled to punitive damages.

What Are Punitive Damages?

A general principle behind personal injury law is that the victim should be compensated for the damages that stem from the accident, such as expenses to repair his or her vehicle or receive medical treatment for injuries sustained in an accident. These damages are known as “compensatory damages.”

However, punitive damages are different than other types of damages. They are not meant to compensate the victim. Instead, they are meant to punish the defendant for egregious conduct and deter similar conduct in the future.

These damages are typically only awarded in cases involving particularly outrageous conduct. Additionally, you must specifically ask for punitive damages to receive them. Because people voluntarily choose to drink and drive, victims of drunk-driving crashes may be more likely to receive punitive damages.

How Do I Get Punitive Damages from a Drunk Driver?

In order to obtain punitive damages from a drunk driver, you must be able to show that your injuries were caused by malice, wanton or willful disregard of persons who foreseeably might be harmed by the defendant’s actions. It is not enough to show simple or even gross negligence. Additionally, you have a higher burden of proof because you must prove your claims providing clear and convincing evidence. Therefore, it is important to obtain all of the evidence necessary to meet this elevated burden.

First, it is important to file a Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) complaint. This formal legal document identifies the negligent party and summarizes your claim and the damages you are seeking. You must request punitive damages, or they will not be awarded.

If the other driver was arrested, it is important to follow up on the results of this case. There may also be evidence that your lawyer can obtain to establish that the driver was drunk, such as the results of a roadside breathalyzer test or blood test.

If you are able to meet this evidentiary burden, it is important for you to know that the amount of punitive damages that you may be able to collect are limited under state law. New Jersey law limits the amount of compensation you can receive to $350,000 or five times the amount of your compensatory damages, whichever is greater. Additionally, the judge must determine that any punitive damage awards are reasonable and justified.

Get in Touch with An Experienced Lawyer Today

If you were injured by a drunk driver, it is important that you seek legal assistance from a qualified New Jersey car accident lawyer. Our legal team at Lynch Law Firm, PC can conduct a thorough investigation into your accident and gather evidence to establish that the driver was impaired. We can also work promptly to preserve evidence that can impact your case.

We offer a free consultation to discuss your accident and the potential damages that you may be able to recover by filing a claim. We can discuss your legal rights and options. We work on a contingency fee basis, so you will not owe us anything for our services unless we successfully resolve your claim.

Contact us today at (800) 518-0508 to get started.

* Results may vary depending on your particular facts and legal circumstances.

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