Can I Recover Punitive Damages in a Drunk Driving Case involving Injuries?
Yes, if you can convince the court there is sufficient evidence that the at-fault driver was intoxicated.
Illinois courts have held that driving while intoxicated (drunk driving) qualifies as a type of willful and wanton conduct that warrants punitive damages against the in tort cases.
What Exactly are Punitive Damages?
Unlike compensatory damages (economic damages), punitive damages are intended to punish the responsible party and deter similar misconduct (Loitz v. Remington Arms Co., 138 Ill.2d 404 (Ill. 1990)). They do not reimburse plaintiffs after drunk driving crashes so much as discipline drunk drivers for drunk driving.
This goes against the theory of most recovery options with personal injuries. The law wants to act decisively to send a message to a drunk driver that drunk driving is unacceptable.
If their drunk driving causes a car accident, and serious injuries or other harms result, they will pay a price in drunk driving cases.
Other instances of outrageous conduct or egregious conduct that may warrant awarding punitive damages in a civil lawsuit (wrongful death, personal injury, etc.), include:
- Driving while texting.
- Intentionally rear-ending another vehicle.
- Speeding through a construction zone.
After a car accident, contact our law firm to set up an attorney client relationship to seek compensation against the drunk driver. Our law firm has brought many cases against drunk drivers for compensatory and punitive damages.
Call now for a free consultation from an experienced attorney about a personal injury claim for your lost wages, pain and suffering, and medical bills caused by a drunk driver or other at fault party. Our team can use clear and convincing evidence of drunk driver conduct to build drunk driving cases.
This may make you entitled to punitive damages and compensatory damages from the drunk driver.
When Can I Get Punitive Damages from a Drunk Driver?
In Illinois, a lawsuit seeking punitive damages requires leave of court (permission from the judge) before such damages may be sought from the at-fault driver.
A court may allow the plaintiff (injured party) to request punitive damages only if the plaintiff can establish at a preliminary hearing that there are reasonable facts to support such a request at trial.
Drunk driving victims must have clear and convincing evidence to pursue punitive damages. Only then can a court award punitive damages for a personal injury or other serious injury from a car accident.
Further, punitive damages may only be awarded after compensatory damages that are designed to reimburse the injured party for their accident-related expenses (735 ILCS 5/2-1115.05). In other words, the plaintiff must be able to show they had actual, reimbursable damages in order to seek punitive damages.
In Illinois, punitive damages may not exceed three times the amount of economic damages awarded.
Noting that the law generally disfavors awarding of punitive damages except in special cases, the Illinois Supreme Court explained the high bar required for pursuing punitive damages in tort cases in Kelsay v. Motorola Inc. (72 Ill.2d 172, 186 (Ill. 1978)). They set the rule for these damages as follows:
“[P]unitive or exemplary damages may be awarded when torts are committed with fraud, malice, deliberate violence or oppression or when the defendant acts with such gross negligence as to indicate a wanton disregard of the rights of others.”
Further, Illinois courts have held that evidence of intoxication at the time of an auto accident was sufficient to submit to a jury in relation to an allegation of willful and wanton conduct. (Coleman v. Williams, 42 Ill. App. 3d 612 (Ill. App. Ct. 1976).
Call if you were injured by a drunk driver in motor vehicle accidents for a free consultation. We can determine if you are entitled to punitive damages or compensatory damages.
This can help compensate you for lost wages, medical expenses, other medical treatment costs, property damage, pain and suffering, and other losses from the crash.
Victims of drunk driving obtain punitive damages and punitive damage awards often and we can help you do the same. You can feel secure submitting a contact form message or voicemail the contact form message to us over the phone
How You Can Recover Punitive Damages.
To recover punitive compensation, you really need to file a case. With other forms of recovery, like compensatory, you may only work with an insurance party or conduct private settlement negotiations.
However, punitive damages are not recognized in the insurance industry. Alternatively, defendants will never give you punitive awards unless forced to by a judge or jury.
Therefore, you will need to file a case in the proper court, within the relevant Illinois statute of limitations (typically 2 years), and in accordance with other civil procedure requirements. An attorney can help you do all of these things.
They can also complete other tasks to bolster your case, like these:
- Investigate the conditions of the crash
- Interview witnesses
- Consult medical authorities on the severity of your injuries
- Draft a complaint in law and file it in court
- Argue at court for your relief and financial recovery
To get a more complete sense of how an experienced lawyer can aide your pursuit of justice and compensation, get in touch with us. We offer legal advice on a contingency fee basis to save you upfront money and can give you a free case review today.
The injured victim or injured victim may be entitled to relief for injuries sustained up to legal limit from insurance companies or impaired drivers. Find out what that may be for you by contacting our law firm.
How Much Punitive Damages and Compensatory Damages Can You Obtain from Drunk Drivers?
If the defendant acted in a wanton or reckless fashion, this may justify punitive damages as well as other categories of relief. But how much can they get exactly?
There is no one-size-fits-all answer here. Every case is different, so every award is different. There are a few general rules of thumb we can discern though after reviewing Illinois' case law on the topic:
- Economic damages are typically one-for-one with items lost/damages or expenses incurred.
- Non-economic damages may exceed economic damages by a factor of two or three.
- Punitive damages may multiply economic damages by a factor of two to four.
Juries have wide latitude in awarding both punitive and non-economic damages. You may see awards that are less or more than the legal trends noted above.
That is why it is best to consult an attorney to estimate what your recovery package may be.
Injured victims should create an attorney-client relationship now to hold drunk drivers for conscious indifference or willful misconduct like driving on drugs or alcohol. They may be entitled to relief in court through personal injury or wrongful death suits.
Send contact form text message or call us now to get your case started today.
What You Should Do after a Crash with an Intoxicated Driver.
Everyone should take immediate and decisive action after a collision to ensure they protect their legal rights and future financial compensation.
If they do not do this, the responsible party and their insurance companies will try and eliminate your settlement or award.
Here are a few things you should do in the preliminary phase following the incident to protect your case:
- Visit a hospital for medical care.
- Write down what happened as you remember it.
- Make an itemized list of your losses and harms.
- Hire a personal injury law firm.
- Avoid communication with the defendant or their agents without your lawyer.
Of course, this list is not complete. It is meant just as a start. Work with an experienced and dedicated Illinois auto accident law firm to chart a full gameplan.
Contact us to help you but note contact form sends information across the web so don't send confidential or sensitive information. Attorney client relationship copyright.
Attorneys with Experience Representing People Injured or Killed in Illinois Drunk Driving Accidents
At Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers LLC, we understand the profound impact that a drunk driving accident has on accident victims. We are committed to holding irresponsible drivers fully accountable for their actions.
Our law firm regularly files civil lawsuits on behalf of individuals and their families to obtain the compensation Illinois law provides for people injured in DUI accidents.
If you or a loved one was injured in a DUI accident with a drunk driver, we invite injury victims to call, use our contact form or meet with one of our attorneys. Then, we can offer you a free review of your case to learn about your legal options for financial recovery.