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Will I Get Punitive Damages in a Drunk Driving Accident?

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Posted on August 15, 2023

If you’ve been injured in a drunk driving accident, you may wonder what kind of compensation you’re entitled to. One significant aspect to consider is whether you can claim punitive damages in addition to other forms of financial restitution. This special form of compensation is only awarded under certain circumstances.

What Are Punitive Damages?

While economic damages cover expenses like medical bills and lost wages, and non-economic damages account for pain and suffering, punitive damages serve a different role. Specifically, they are meant to punish the wrongdoer and deter similar actions in the future. In essence, punitive damages are levied as a financial penalty to discourage not just the individual defendant but others from engaging in the same kind of harmful behavior.

Utah’s Laws on Punitive Damages

Section 78B-8-201 of the Utah Code sets specific criteria for the awarding of punitive damages. Generally, such damages are permitted only if you have already been awarded compensatory or general damages. Moreover, you must demonstrate by clear and convincing evidence that the defendant’s actions were willful, malicious, intentionally fraudulent, or manifested a knowing and reckless indifference toward your rights.

However, the standard of proof is somewhat relaxed in cases involving drunk driving. In such instances, punitive damages must be proven by a preponderance of the evidence, a lower threshold than clear and convincing evidence. 

A preponderance of the evidence means that it is more likely than not that the defendant’s actions warrant punitive damages, whereas clear and convincing evidence requires a higher level of certainty that the defendant’s conduct was egregious.

Drunk Driving Accidents Often Qualify for Punitive Damages

Based on Utah’s laws, drunk driving accident lawsuits frequently meet the criteria for punitive damages. However, it is important to consult with a personal injury attorney to determine whether your specific case qualifies for this category of compensation.

Drunk driving is an extremely dangerous and illegal act. When someone chooses to operate a vehicle while intoxicated, he or she exhibits a knowing and reckless indifference to the safety of others on the road. Given the lower standard of proof for drunk driving cases, many victims have a stronger chance of successfully claiming punitive damages.

Speak to Our Attorneys About Your Legal Options

If you have been involved in a drunk driving accident, it’s common to feel scared, hurt, and overwhelmed. You may be dealing with injuries, emotional trauma, and financial difficulties from medical bills and lost wages. Navigating the legal landscape on your own during such a vulnerable time can be challenging and could jeopardize your right to fair compensation. Therefore, consulting our personal injury attorneys in St. George should be a top priority.

A Utah drunk driving accident lawyer can provide valuable insights into the complexities of your case, including the types of damages you may be entitled to claim. Your attorney will also understand the evidentiary standards needed to claim punitive damages, particularly in drunk driving cases.

Additionally, your attorney can conduct an in-depth investigation to collect crucial evidence, consult medical professionals for expert testimony, and build a strong case to demonstrate the liability of the drunk driver. To protect your rights and learn more about your legal options, contact a St. George drunk driving accident lawyer as soon as possible following the collision.