Personal Injury Injuries Caused by a Drunk Driver
Drunk Driving Information
In 2007 over 30 percent of all traffic fatalities occurred as the result of drivers impaired by a blood alcohol level of .08 or greater. Making the decision to drive drunk puts the driver in a compromised situation where they are operating a vehicle at a lower and more impaired level of awareness making it more difficult if not impossible to react safely to various driving conditions. The inability to properly monitor, be aware of, and react to different conditions makes driving drunk a potentially grave risk to the intoxicated driver, passengers in the vehicle and anyone else on the road.
Driving drunk may make the driver susceptible to both civil and criminal liability depending on the nature of the circumstances surrounding the incident. Accidents involving drunk driving often involve serious injury and in some cases even death. The victims of a drunk driver will hold the defendant civilly liable for damages that are intended to compensate the victims for their losses. These damages, known as compensatory damages, include items such as compensation for lost wages, medical bills, pain and suffering, etc.
Louisiana Drunk Driving Damages and Penalties
In addition to these compensatory damages which are designed to make the victim "whole" again, Louisiana allows for the recovery of punitive damages in scenarios involving drunk driving. Louisiana Civil Code Article 2315.4 states in part, "exemplary damages may be awarded upon proof that the injuries on which the action is based were caused by a wanton or reckless disregard for the rights and safety of others by a defendant whose intoxication while operating a motor vehicle was a cause in fact of the resulting injuries." Punitive damages are designed to punish the defendant for their wrongdoing in order to make an example of them in the hope that others will be deterred from acting in a similar way.
According to the abovementioned Civil Code article, three elements need to be proven in order to recover exemplary damages:
- the defendant was intoxicated to the extent that they lost normal control of their mental and physical faculties,
- the intoxication was a cause-in-fact of the resulting injuries to the plaintiff,
- and the injuries were caused by the defendant's reckless disregard for the safety of others.
("Cause-in-fact" is a legal term of art that means a cause without which an event could not have occurred.)
As punitive damages in drunk driving cases involve precise legal direction in terms of obtaining damages or defending against them, you need an experienced attorney who is able to fully represent and rigorously defend your best legal interest.
Due to the deterrent nature of punitive damages, that is the nature to deter future behavior, these exemplary damages may be close to the amount paid for compensatory damages.
For instance, in the Louisiana case of Lafauci v. Jenkins, a 2003 court of appeals decision dealing with awarding punitive damages to a plaintiff injured by an intoxicated motorist, the court awarded $22,500.00 in punitive damages to the plaintiff and $35,000.00 in general damages for physical injuries sustained as a result of the accident. It is clear that driving while intoxicated and subsequently injuring someone may subject the wrongdoer to significantly more liability and as such it is best to contact an attorney who knows how to handle your case.
In cases where a drunk driver has caused a fatality, the victim's family members may bring a wrongful death action against the driver. Such action is brought under Louisiana Civil Code Article 2315.2 which provides that suit may be brought in circumstances where a person dies due to the fault of another to recover damages sustained as a result of the death. Often, damages will include compensation for loss of companionship and loss of future wages; however, the defendant may also be liable for punitive damages in a wrongful death action thereby making him or herself susceptible to an even greater degree of liability.
If you or someone you know have been injured as a result of the actions of a drunk driver in New Orleans, Metairie, Gretna, Harvey or the surrounding areas, contact Bloom Legal today at 504-599-9997 or through the Contact form at the top left of this page to schedule a free consultation and discuss how we can fight to help make you whole and secure the compensation you are due.
-Bloom Legal LLC 700 Camp St Ste 212 New Orleans, La 70130-
New Orleans Attorney Blog
May 20th, 2013
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