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Will You Get More Money for Your Car Accident Injury if You Were Hit by a Drunk Driver?
On average, 30 people a day die from drunk driving accidents in the United States. Drunk driving accidents claim the lives of thousands each year, and result in countless hours of court proceedings and criminal investigations. Drunk drivers disregard the risks of operating a vehicle under the influence and needlessly destroy property, lives, and families from all walks of life. Fortunately, Arizona is known as one of the toughest states on drunk driving in the country. Arizona has some of the harshest mandatory criminal sentences and is noted for its “deterrence” approach to those who drink and drive. Because Arizona’s criminal enforcement and penalties for drunk driving are so strict, it is no wonder so many people question what impact drunk driving has on a personal injury lawsuit.
In some cases, courts and juries in Arizona have awarded injured individuals extra money to penalize drunk drivers.
Generally, if you were injured as the result of a negligent party, the amount of money you can receive is determined by the extent and severity of your injuries. These types of monetary awards are referred to as “compensatory damages” mainly because they are meant to compensate you for your loss. However, there are certain circumstances when a court may go above and beyond the standard award for damages. In some cases, courts and juries in Arizona have awarded injured individuals extra money to penalize drunk drivers.
You May Be Able to Get Extra Money if You Were Hit by a Drunk Driver
When a court or jury awards extra money to punish a wrongdoer, this extra amount is referred to as “punitive damages.” Punitive damages are awarded to punish the wrongdoer and deter others from similar conduct. Arizona courts and juries may punish a wrongdoer if he or she acted recklessly or knowingly disregarded the safety of others. Punitive damages are awarded only when the wrongdoer’s wrongful conduct is the result of an “evil mind,” something more than mere negligence. As a result, a court or jury must decide if the wrongdoer’s state of mind or attitude allows for the recovery of these damages.
An Injury Lawyer May Help You Recover More Money Against a Drunk Driver
A skilled personal injury attorney may be able to prove that a drunk driver acted with an evil mind. An evil mind is found where the defendant intended to injure the plaintiff, or where the defendant, not intending to cause injury, “consciously pursued a course of conduct knowing that it created a substantial risk of significant harm to others.” An evil mind can be suggested when the defendant’s conduct is so outrageous that it can be assumed he or she intended to injure or that he or she consciously disregarded the substantial risk of harm created by the conduct.
Merely being injured by a drunk driver may not be enough to receive punitive damages.
Like many legal questions, the answer is very fact specific. Merely being injured by a drunk driver may not be enough to receive punitive damages. Usually, other underlying facts need to be shown in order to prove that the defendant acted with an “evil mind.” For example, if in addition to being intoxicated the defendant was also: driving reckless, under the influence of other substances, hostile, or if he/she tried to flee the scene, a court might determine that punitive damages are warranted. Usually, this type of despicable behavior is already exhibited by those who are under the influence of alcohol. Police reports, crash narratives, voluntary statements, body camera or dash camera footage and other eyewitness testimony are great ways to prove that the drunk driver was more than just negligent. These other factual circumstances help show the judge, and ultimately the jury, that the drunk driver consciously pursued a course of conduct knowing that it created a substantial risk of significant harm to others.
Ultimately, the burden to prove that the drunk driver had an evil mind by driving drunk rests on the injured party at trial. The person seeking to recover for his or her injuries must also prove this burden by “clear and convincing evidence.” This is a higher standard than what is required to prove a negligence claim. To prevail on a negligence claim, an individual must prove that “more likely than not” the at fault driver was responsible for the crash and caused the injuries.
Our Scottsdale Personal Injury Attorneys Have Experience Handling Drunk Driving Cases
The legal team at Scottsdale Injury Lawyers is always ready to fight for every dollar available, including punitive damages. The personal injury attorneys at Scottsdale Injury Lawyers take the time to understand the nuances of every case and have experience handling drunk driving accidents. Our skilled attorneys have recovered punitive damages awards on behalf of clients. We know what evidence is crucial to receiving more money for drunk driving accidents and we know the best ways of obtaining it.
If you or someone you love has been injured at the hands of a drunk driver, do not hesitate to contact our office to discuss your case. A consultation is always free and we can usually do it during the initial phone call. If we do take your case, we charge no fee unless we recover for you and advance all costs to win your case or claim.
About the author: The content on this page was provided by Scottsdale personal injury attorney and civil rights lawyer Tony Piccuta. Piccuta graduated with honors from Indiana University-Maurer School of Law in Bloomington, Indiana (Ranked Top 35 US News & World Report 2018). Piccuta took and passed the State bars of Arizona, California, Illinois and Nevada (all on the first try). He actively practices throughout Arizona and California. He is a trial attorney that regularly handles serious personal injury cases and civil rights lawsuits. He has obtained six and seven figure verdicts in both state and federal court. He has been recognized by Super Lawyers for six years straight. He is a member of the Arizona Association of Justice, Maricopa County Bar Association, Scottsdale Bar Association, American Association for Justice, National Police Accountability Project and Consumer Attorneys of California, among other organizations.
Disclaimer: The information on this web site is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. The information on this page is attorney advertising. Reading and relying upon the content on this page does not create an attorney-client relationship. If you are seeking legal advice, you should contact our law firm for a free consultation and to discuss your specific case and issues.