Legal help for drunk driving accidents
We represent people who are hit by someone who was driving under the influence or in drunk driving accidents. If you were injured in a car accident that was caused by a drunk driver, we want to hear from you. We can quickly let you know if you have a potential case.
What is the difference between a DUI and drunk driving?
Driving under the influence (DUI) could mean drugs or liquor, but some people use them interchangeably. Although the courts have not separated them out for the purposes of damages, proving someone is “impaired” is really the standard, and may be harder to prove when drugs are involved. When you are hit by someone who is driving under the influence, it may not feel any different than being hit by any other car, both injure you, but there is a difference when it comes to your claim against that person.
The main difference between being hit by someone who is driving or under the influence of drugs or alcohol is that being hit by a person driving under the influence opens up additional damages. Not only are they responsible to you for the regular damages for the rest of your life like medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, but a DUI driver also owes you what is called punitive damages in drunk driving accidents.
What are punitive damages?
Punitive damages: The type of conduct necessary to sustain an award of punitive damages must be of a “gross and flagrant character, evincing reckless disregard of human life, or of the safety of persons exposed to its dangerous effects, or there is that entire want of care which would raise the presumption of a conscious indifference to consequences, or which shows wantonness or recklessness, or grossly careless disregard of the safety and welfare of the public, or that reckless indifference to the rights of others which is equivalent to an intentional violation of them.” White Constr. Co., Inc. v. Dupont, 455 So.2d 1026, 1029 (Fla.1984) (quoting Carraway v. Revell, 116 So.2d 16, 20 n. 12 (Fla.1959)).
Florida Courts have held that intoxicated drivers by their very nature qualify for punitive damages. See for example Zuckerman v. Robinson, 846 So.2d 1257 (Fla. 4th DCA 2003). Because punitive damages are damages awarded to punish the defendant, your attorney is allowed to obtain the financial information about a defendant that they normally would not have to give. Sometimes we can also get prior driving record too. Sometimes these alone motivate defendants to lien on their insurance carriers to settle your case.
What good do punitive damages serve?
Punitive damages do a lot of good to our community. They serve as a deterrent to those thinking about driving while drunk or high. Another good thing is that it helps the person they hurt, who would usually prefer to never have been hurt in the first place, even after they get a “fair” verdict.
How much are punitive damages after drunk driving accidents?
Punitive damages have changed a few times over the years, and are limited by Florida Statute §768.73 to the greater of either a) three times the amount of compensatory damages or b) $500,000. There are exceptions to get more than this, but please talk to a lawyer that is board certified in civil trial before using the exceptions. The reason it is so important to talk to a lawyer right away is that you may NOT want to use it depending on the circumstances. If this is a question for you, call me and I’ll explain why. You need to answer the question before you give any statements about your case to anyone.
Will I ever get punitive damages?
A problem with punitive damages is that they are rarely covered by insurance. This will sound nit-picky lawyering, but it is another reason to get a lawyer involved in your drunk driving accident claim right away. The insurance carrier for the drunk/high driver will probably claim that their policy does not cover the punitive damages claim, and a good lawyer may be able to argue against that. For example, if the bad drivers’ liability insurance policy only covers “compensatory damages” it may not have to cover punitive damages, which are not there to compensate for losses, but rather they are to punish the defendant. That happened in First Specialty Ins. Co. v. Caliber One Indem. Co., 988 So.2d 708 (Fla. 2nd DCA 2008).
There are exceptions and exceptions to exceptions, so talk to a board certified civil trial attorney right away. If punitive damages are not covered under the drunk drivers’ insurance, and that bad driver does not have lots of money, you will have a hard time ever recovering actual punitive damages. At Herman & Wells, we work hard to fight for everything that you deserve when someone is driving under the influence and hurts you so do not hesitate to call for a free consultation.
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