Drunk drivers pose a potent hazard to everyone who shares the road with them. They often struggle to maintain control of their vehicles and may drive erratically, which can make it incredibly difficult to predict their behavior. Not only do drunk drivers have a much higher risk of causing an accident, victims injured in a drunk driving accident may suffer much more substantial injuries due to the drunk driver’s lack of control.
If you suffered injuries in a drunk driving accident, you want to recover as much compensation as possible. Can you recover punitive damages from a car accident caused by a drunk driver in Louisiana?
Punitive vs. Compensatory Damages
After an auto accident, most victims seek compensatory damages from the party that caused the accident. Compensatory damages aim to provide compensation for the victim’s losses in an accident. This might include compensation for medical expenses or lost wages due to the accident—clearly-defined, tangible expenses that you can count—as well as compensation for the pain and suffering the victim suffered as a result of an accident. These damages are the reason most drivers carry auto insurance: to help protect the victims of an accident and ensure that they get the compensation they deserve for serious injuries suffered, which can pose a substantial financial burden to accident victims.
Punitive damages, on the other hand, aim to punish the party that caused the accident. Victims of auto accidents cannot, under normal circumstances, collect punitive damages, since those accidents usually represent exactly that: accidents, often caused by minor acts of negligence. Punitive damages represent an additional fee added to the damages the accident victim can already claim in compensation for their injuries.
Can You Recover Punitive Damages After a Louisiana Drunk Driving Accident?
Louisiana law does offer provision for punitive damages after a Louisiana drunk driving accident. Drunk driving represents not only a negligent decision, but also a dangerous one—and an illegal one. Punitive damages not only provide additional compensation for the accident victim and his family, they create a harsher punishment for drunk drivers.
That does not mean, however, that the court will automatically award punitive damages after a drunk driving accident in Louisiana. Instead, you must take the right steps to ensure that you receive that vital protection. Working closely with an experienced personal injury attorney who has handled drunk driving accidents in the past can make it easier for you to seek all the damages you deserve after a drunk driving accident, including punitive damages.
Your attorney must prove that the driver was intoxicated at the time of the accident. In order for you to receive punitive damages, you must show that the driver was actually intoxicated. If the driver received a blood alcohol test, including a breathalyzer, at the scene of the accident or immediately afterward, for example, it could show that the driver was drunk at the time of the accident. If, on the other hand, no evidence of the driver’s inebriation exists, you may not be able to recover punitive damages.
The driver’s intoxication must be the primary cause of the accident and your injuries. Multiple factors often contribute to auto accidents, including drunk driving accidents. For example, if a tire blowout represented the primary cause of the accident, and the accident was merely exacerbated by the driver’s inebriation, that inebriation might not serve as the primary cause of the accident. As a result, you may have more trouble collecting punitive damages from the accident. Likewise, if a factor other than the driver’s inebriation caused your accident, including another driver, your own error, or a geographic feature that led to a skidding vehicle, you may have more trouble collecting punitive damages.
In short, in order to prove that you deserve punitive damages from the accident, your attorney will need to show that the driver was intoxicated and that, had the driver not been intoxicated, you would not have suffered injuries. Without those key pieces of evidence, you may struggle to collect punitive damages from your claim. Working closely with an attorney can help provide additional support and evidence that can help prove grounds for you to collect punitive damages.
What Should You Do If You Suspect the Driver Who Caused Your Accident of Driving Drunk?
Many people, at the scene of an accident, do not want to draw attention to themselves. You might worry that the police officer will not take you seriously, or fear attracting the ire of the other driver. If you suspect that the driver who caused your accident was driving while intoxicated, however, you should take the right steps to protect yourself.
Tell the police officer who responds to the scene of the accident of your suspicions. Include any information that made you suspect that the other driver was intoxicated. For example, did you notice that the driver was swerving erratically? Did the driver drive extremely slowly? Did you notice that the driver did not seem to have full control of his vehicle? You may also have noticed signs that the driver suffered from intoxication after he exited his vehicle: oddities in his speech patterns, for example, or strange behavior. Keep in mind that signs of inebriation at the scene of the accident may not only represent drunkenness. Diabetic concerns or head injuries can both show some of the same symptoms as inebriation. Your observations, however, can trigger a blood alcohol test, which may make it easier for police officers to identify a drunk driver.
Include your suspicions in any verbal or written report you make of the accident. Make sure you let your attorney know that you suspect the other driver of inebriation.
You may not always be able to recover punitive damages after a drunk driving accident, especially if the police do not conduct a blood alcohol test on the other driver. An attorney, however, can substantially increase your odds of collecting the full damages you deserve. Contact Allan Berger & Associates today at 504-526-2222 to schedule a free consultation regarding your accident.