Punitive damages (which are also called exemplary damages) are damages intended to “punish” someone who is guilty of a tort. They also serve to warn others not to engage in the same conduct. These damages are fairly rare and are awarded in only about 5% of all trials nationwide.
Punitive damages are different from compensatory damages. As the name suggests, it compensates a victim for injuries or damage.
For example, let’s say that you were involved in an accident with a drunk driver and you broke your arm. Your compensatory damages would include your medical expenses, vehicular damages, lost wages, and pain and suffering. If this adds up to $65,000, that is the amount you will most likely be rewarded for compensatory damages. However, a jury could also award punitive damages in addition to compensatory damages. They may elect to do this to send the message that driving under the influence (DUI) isn’t acceptable.
For example, in one Florida case, a jury awarded $275 million in punitive damages against a drunk driver who ran a stop sign at 60 miles per hour and killed a 13-year-old girl riding in her grandparents’ car.
(Just because a jury awards punitive damages, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the victim or the victim’s family will be able to collect the award. The ability to collect will depend on the DUI driver’s assets and/or insurance.)
The injury attorneys at Phoenix Accident and Injury Law Firm in Phoenix have significant experience in helping clients who have been victims of DUI accidents. If you need help filing a claim for one of these awful, life changing accidents, we are here to help you get the compensation you deserve. Our offices are conveniently located in Chandler, Peoria, and North Phoenix, and we can meet in-person or over the phone or video call. You can contact us for a free consultation, or read on to find out more.
By the way, we will also help with other problems that have cost you sleep, like getting a rental car very soon and finding a nearby doctor or psychiatrist who can help get your life back on track. Even the best legal team isn’t good enough if your quality of life isn’t sustainable while justice and compensation are on the way. The whole point of legal action is to regain quality of life, so we help you long-term as attorneys and short-term as your go-to people. Our familiarity with the local Phoenix courts makes us confident that we can help you get the best settlement possible.
If you are unsure whether or not you can afford an attorney, don’t worry. We only get paid when you settle. Check out our Attorney Fees Calculator to find out more.
Arizona Public Policy Against Drunk and Drugged Driving
The Arizona Supreme Court noted that Arizona has a “public policy of deterring drunk driving” and that [w]hen a person … engages in behavior so egregious as to drive a motor vehicle in a drugged or drunken state, resulting in the death or injury of innocent people, he or she must recognize that the decision to drive in that condition may result in placing everything on the line, even if solely as a reminder to others so tempted.
An Arizona jury decides whether a drunk driving injury case merits punitive damages (This MUST be allowed). For example, in one Arizona case, the court said, “If there is evidence that defendant drove while intoxicated, and that his intoxicated driving was a proximate cause of an accident and resulting injury, the jury decides whether the negligence was gross or wanton.”
In another Arizona Supreme Court case, the court held: Whether a party who consciously consumes enough alcohol to raise her blood alcohol level to more than two and one-half times the legal limit and then drives a motor vehicle on public roads has demonstrated conduct that shows an evil mind intending to interfere with the rights of others lawfully using the highway or disregarding the substantial risk that conduct poses of significant harm to others is a question of fact for the jury. However, just because you claim punitive damages as a DUI victim doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll get them. The more outrageous the impaired driver’s conduct, the more likely a jury is to award punitive damages.
Who Is Liable for Punitive Damages?
The driver who was DUI isn’t necessarily the only party liable for punitive damages. Under certain circumstances, the driver’s employer or the establishment that sold the liquor (or other intoxicant) to the driver may also be responsible.
Insurance and Punitive Damages
Under Arizona law, a drunk driver’s insurance may cover an award of punitive damages.
Getting More Information
Although punitive damages are rare, a jury will more likely award them in DUI cases. This is due to the fact that society recognizes the damage drunk and drug-impaired drivers cause to society. To learn more about DUI victims’ rights, please visit our page.
At Phoenix Accident and Injury Law Firm near you, we have more than 15 years of experience helping clients obtain compensation for their personal injuries from DUI accidents in the Phoenix area. When you’re ready to talk, please contact our office to arrange a free initial consultation by phone or at our Chandler office, conveniently located near you.
If you have been in a DUI accident, contact Phoenix Accident and Injury Law Firm in nearby Chandler, AZ to speak with an experienced personal injury attorney. We provide personal injury legal services to clients in your area including Chandler, Gilbert, Mesa, Scottsdale, Tempe, and Peoria.