Have You Been Injured by Someone Driving Under the Influence (DUI)?
“It’s Just Past 3 am on a Saturday Nite…”, last week’s cover story in the San Diego Reader, reports: “In San Diego it seems if you don’t have a DUI, chances are your neighbor does. According to insurance.com, America’s Finest City topped the list for having the largest percentage of drivers with alcohol related driving convictions in mid-2010.” The story takes a hard look at the consequences of driving under the influence, even for a first offense, including loss or restriction of your license, and bail, fines, penalties, and attorney’s fees which can add up to $10,000 or more.
Despite these harsh consequences, many people continue to drive under the influence and place the rest of us at risk. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), more than 17,500 people die each year in alcohol-related motor vehicle accidents and thousands more are injured. If you have been injured by someone driving under the influence, you should immediately contact an experienced injury lawyer to determine your rights.
Besides criminal charges, drunk drivers are responsible for any injuries or damage they cause. Additionally, those who provide alcohol to the driver or could have prevented the accident may share responsibility. An experienced injury attorney will know the facts to look for to ensure that you are fully compensated for your injury from every available source.
In addition to compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering, you may be entitled to recover punitive damages against one or more of these individuals. In 1979, the California Supreme Court extended the availability of punitive damages to drunk drivers. According to the Court, an individual who willfully “consumes alcoholic beverages to the point of intoxication, knowing that he thereafter must operate a motor vehicle, thereby combining sharply impaired physical and mental faculties with a vehicle capable of great force and speed, reasonably may be held to exhibit a conscious disregard of the safety of others.” The purpose of punitive damages is not only to punish the drunk driver, but also to deter future conduct. A few years later, however, the Court decided that punitive damages may not be paid by the drunk driver’s auto insurance. What does this mean to you? It means that the drunk driver who hit you will have to pay punitive damages from his/her own pocket.
What if the drunk driver is a troubled teenager? Parents could be responsible for your damages, including punitive damages, if they knew about the teen’s history of drug or alcohol use, knew or should have known that his driving a car could put others in danger, and should have supervised him better. Depending on the teen’s history of bad behavior, and what steps the parents took to try to get him help or prevent him from harming others, their failure to supervise him could rise to the level of gross negligence and they could be responsible for your damages, including punitive damages.
If you, or someone you know, has been injured in an accident caused by a drunk driver, call our offices today to discuss your case. Criminal charges against the drunk driver WILL NOT protect or compensate you for your injuries.
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