Drunk Driver Car Accident Cases
3/11/2014 2:13 PM
Drunk Driver DUI Car Accident Cases
Car accidents are caused by intoxicated drivers every day. It is sad, but true. You hear about it all the time on the local news. I have successfully represented many clients who were injured as a result of someone driving while intoxicated or high on drugs.
It is important not let someone drive away from an accident scene if you smell alcohol or they look like they are high on drugs. Many people do not know that if someone is cited and convicted for O.C.G.A. § 40-6-391 an injured person is entitled to punitive damages under Georgia law. And punitive damages greatly increase the value of a personal injury claim if presented to the insurance company in the right way.
What are punitive damages and why are they so important?
Being different from compensatory damages, which compensate people for their medical bills, financial losses, injuries, and pain and suffering, punitive damages are intended to punish and deter reckless conduct. In order to recover punitive damages, it must be proven by clear and convincing evidence that the defendant’s actions showed “willful misconduct, malice, fraud, wantonness, oppression, or the entire want of care which would raise the presumption of conscious indifference to consequences.” O.C.G.A. § 51-12-5.1
What punitive damages do for your personal injury case?
Punitive damages greatly increase the value of your personal injury case. When you hear about an injured party getting millions of dollars awarded in a jury trial, punitive damages are usually involved.
Punitive damages are available when someone is injured as a result of someone driving while drunk or under the influence of narcotics. Because they are meant to deter and punish, insurance companies pay close attention to cases where punitive damages may be involved. Juries have awarded large verdicts for people injured as a result of the negligence of a drunk driver or stoned driver.
Why it's important to hire a lawyer if you are injured by a drunk driver?
A common practice by an insurance adjuster is to try and settle a car accident case caused by a drunk driver before the injured party gets the right lawyer - that way they can save the insurance company thousands of dollars.
I, John Hurst, a personal injury attorney in Vinings, Atlanta, Georgia, near Smyrna, Georgia, know how to win DUI driver personal injury cases. I have significant experience and knowledge with these cases. Please call or contact us today if you have any questions about your legal rights after being injured in a car accident caused by a drunk or impaired driver.
For those interested, here is Georgia’s statutory law on punitive damages. In Georgia, punitive damages are governed by O.C.G.A. § 51-12-5.1.
O.C.G.A. § 51-12-5.1 reads as follows:
(a) As used in this Code section, the term "punitive damages" is synonymous with the terms "vindictive damages," "exemplary damages," and other descriptions of additional damages awarded because of aggravating circumstances in order to penalize, punish, or deter a defendant.
(b) Punitive damages may be awarded only in such tort actions in which it is proven by clear and convincing evidence that the defendant's actions showed willful misconduct, malice, fraud, wantonness, oppression, or that entire want of care which would raise the presumption of conscious indifference to consequences.
(c) Punitive damages shall be awarded not as compensation to a plaintiff but solely to punish, penalize, or deter a defendant.
(d) (1) An award of punitive damages must be specifically prayed for in a complaint. In any case in which punitive damages are claimed, the trier of fact shall first resolve from the evidence produced at trial whether an award of punitive damages shall be made. This finding shall be made specially through an appropriate form of verdict, along with the other required findings. …
2) If it is found that punitive damages are to be awarded, the trial shall immediately be recommenced in order to receive such evidence as is relevant to a decision regarding what amount of damages will be sufficient to deter, penalize, or punish the defendant in light of the circumstances of the case. It shall then be the duty of the trier of fact to set the amount to be awarded according to subsection (e), (f), or (g) of this Code section, as applicable.
(e) (1) In a tort case in which the cause of action arises from product liability, there shall be no limitation regarding the amount which may be awarded as punitive damages. Only one award of punitive damages may be recovered in a court in this state from a defendant for any act or omission if the cause of action arises from product liability, regardless of the number of causes of action which may arise from such act or omission.
(2) Seventy-five percent of any amounts awarded under this subsection as punitive damages, less a proportionate part of the costs of litigation, including reasonable attorney's fees, all as determined by the trial judge, shall be paid into the treasury of the state through the Office of the State Treasurer. Upon issuance of judgment in such a case, the state shall have all rights due a judgment creditor until such judgment is satisfied and shall stand on equal footing with the plaintiff of the original case in securing a recovery after payment to the plaintiff of damages awarded other than as punitive damages. A judgment debtor may remit the state's proportional share of punitive damages to the clerk of the court in which the judgment was rendered. It shall be the duty of the clerk to pay over such amounts to the Office of the State Treasurer within 60 days of receipt from the judgment debtor. This paragraph shall not be construed as making the state a party at interest and the sole right of the state is to the proceeds as provided in this paragraph.
(f) In a tort case in which the cause of action does not arise from product liability, if it is found that the defendant acted, or failed to act, with the specific intent to cause harm, or that the defendant acted or failed to act while under the influence of alcohol, drugs other than lawfully prescribed drugs administered in accordance with prescription, or any intentionally consumed glue, aerosol, or other toxic vapor to that degree that his or her judgment is substantially impaired, there shall be no limitation regarding the amount which may be awarded as punitive damages against an active tort-feasor but such damages shall not be the liability of any defendant other than an active tort-feasor.
(g) For any tort action not provided for by subsection (e) or (f) of this Code section in which the trier of fact has determined that punitive damages are to be awarded, the amount which may be awarded in the case shall be limited to a maximum of $250,000.00.
(h) This Code section shall apply only to causes of action arising on or after April 14, 1997.