DWI Personal Injury Lawyer FAQ: What should I know about punitive damages in DWI personal injury cases?

When you or a loved one suffered harm in an accident, and that accident was caused by another person who was driving while intoxicated, you should consult a DWI personal injury lawyer as soon as possible. Compensatory damages for your medical bills, pain, suffering, lost wages, and more may be available, in addition to punitive damages. These damages are awarded on a case by case basis and meant to punish the driver for their gross negligence or intentional behavior. 

The Number of Punitive Damages to Be Awarded in Cases

To be awarded punitive damages, your case generally has to go to trial. Once the primary proceedings have completed, and as long as the jury has awarded you compensatory damages, the judge might ask the jury to determine whether or not you should receive punitive damages. The judge might also advise the jury on how to calculate an amount that would act as a deterrent to others who might engage in the same or similar behavior. Considerations may include:

  • The nature, degree, and extent of the misconduct that led to the DWI accident. 
  • Whether the misconduct was motivated by financial incentive or gain. 
  • If the defendant knew they were engaging in dangerous or reckless behavior with a high chance of causing harm. 
  • Whether the defendant purposefully caused the accident. 
  • The financial resources of the defendant. 

The amount of punitive damages greatly varies by case; therefore, it is impossible to say what amount could be awarded in your case (if you’re eligible for punitive damages).

Insurance Companies Are Not Obligated to Cover Punitive Damages

Car insurance companies do not have any obligation to pay for punitive damages. However, they should protect their insured client from having to pay them. Furthermore, these companies owe a duty to the victim to pay for the limits of the policy in an exchange for a release of the policyholder. If drunk driving, gross negligence, or malicious intent cannot be proved, punitive damages may not be awarded. 

It is not uncommon for the insurance company to refuse to offer the limits of the policy, or attempt to hide from the jury the fact that the defendant was driving while intoxicated. The insurance companies’ lawyers might even argue something like “The defendant admits to causing the accident; thus intoxication is not relevant.” Sometimes the defense will also argue that if the jury hears about the intoxication, they will be more inclined to be biased and award more damages to the victim. In this case, a judge could order the intoxication issue to not be discussed. This is one reason why it is so important you choose an experienced, aggressive DWI personal injury lawyer over a lawyer who does not handle these types of cases. 

Call A DWI Personal Injury Lawyer Right Now

If you were injured in an accident and the driver of the other car was intoxicated, we urge you to a law firm to get a free case review by a drunk driving lawyer in Bloomington, IL now. 

Thanks to Pioletti, Pioletti & Nichols for their insight into personal injury claims and DWI accident injuries and damages.