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Will I Get Punitive Damages After a Drunk Driving Accident?

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Posted on December 4, 2023

Experiencing a drunk driving accident is a harrowing ordeal, often leaving deep physical and emotional scars. As you navigate this difficult time, filled with medical treatments and financial uncertainties, you might find yourself wondering about the legal repercussions for the person responsible

Specifically, you may question whether punitive damages could be a part of your legal recourse. This category of compensation goes beyond reimbursement for injuries and losses; it serves as a form of justice for those injured by intoxicated motorists.

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What Are Punitive Damages?

Generally, you can recover two types of damages in a personal injury lawsuit: economic and non-economic. These are known as compensatory damages. Economic damages reimburse the financial impact of the accident, such as medical expenses and vehicle repairs. Non-economic damages recognize the physical and emotional pain and suffering that you endured.

Punitive damages are a unique form of compensation distinct from economic and non-economic damages. While compensatory damages aim to reimburse you for your losses, punitive damages serve a different purpose. They are designed to punish the defendant for particularly egregious or reckless behavior and to deter similar conduct in the future. In simple terms, punitive damages focus on the perpetrator’s actions instead of the impact on the victim.

Utah’s Laws on Punitive Damages

Utah has specific guidelines regarding the awarding of punitive damages. To recover this type of compensation, there must be clear and convincing evidence showing that the perpetrator’s actions were willful, malicious, intentionally fraudulent, or displayed a knowing and reckless indifference to the rights of others. The defendant’s conduct goes beyond mere negligence, reflecting a blatant disregard for the safety and rights of others.

Punitive Damages and Drunk Driving Accidents

Lawsuits that involve drunk driving accidents often qualify for punitive damages. This is because driving under the influence typically demonstrates a knowing and reckless disregard for public safety; alcohol is dangerous and affects many of the capabilities that we require to safely operate a vehicle. When someone gets behind the wheel while drunk, they are ignoring this reality and putting everyone on the road at risk.

However, punitive damages are not automatically awarded in these cases. The victim must provide strong evidence that the driver’s conduct meets the legal criteria for punitive damages. Additionally, the victim must prove that the driver is liable for the accident overall, as punitive damages are only provided in cases where the victim has already been awarded compensatory damages.

How an Attorney Can Help You Recover Punitive Damages

Building a case for punitive damages can be complex and demanding, especially while recovering from an accident. In these situations, a Utah drunk driving attorney can provide valuable guidance and representation. 

They can help you gather and present the necessary evidence to meet the high threshold for punitive damages, establishing your right to this form of compensation. An attorney can also articulate the extent of the defendant’s misconduct and argue convincingly why punitive damages are justified in your case.

If you have been injured by a drunk driver, consulting with a St. George DUI attorney is a crucial first step. After receiving medical care for your injuries, schedule a legal consultation with a St. George car accident lawyer to discuss your next steps.