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Can Punitive Damages Be Awarded in a Drunk Driving Accident Case?

Being in an accident caused by a drunk driver can result in devastating injuries. By filing a personal injury or wrongful death action, you might be eligible to receive compensation for the harm you or a loved one suffered due to the impaired driver’s conduct. This can include reimbursement for medical bills, out-of-pocket expenses, lost wages and pain and suffering. In addition, you may also be entitled to receive punitive damages.

Punitive damages, also known as exemplary damages, can be awarded in drunk driving accident cases where a victim can establish that the impaired driver’s gross negligence caused the victim’s injuries. Gross negligence is defined as a conscious disregard for the rights, welfare and safety of others. This constitutes a higher level of culpability than ordinary negligence, which refers to the failure to exercise reasonable care.

These damages are different than economic and non-economic damages because they are not awarded to compensate the victim, but rather to punish the defendant for their reckless behavior and deter others from engaging in similar misconduct.

In order to be entitled to punitive damages, a plaintiff must demonstrate that the defendant was grossly negligent by clear and convincing evidence. This is a higher burden of proof than the standard required to obtain compensatory damages. However, driving while intoxicated might very well qualify as the type of willful recklessness needed to justify an exemplary award.

The amount of punitive damages that can be awarded is capped under Texas law. A drunk driving accident victim can receive punitive damages equaling the sum of their noneconomic damages and two times the amount of their economic damages. However, the total punitive damages cannot exceed $750,000. When the sum of noneconomic damages and double economic damages is less than $200,000, the punitive damage award can be increased to that amount.

When a driver operates a vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, they place everyone on the road at risk of serious harm. If you were injured in an accident caused by a drunk driver, it’s crucial to hold them accountable to the fullest extent of the law. Located in Cleburne, the Leland Reinhard Law Firm provides skillful advocacy and diligent representation to victims of drunk driving accidents throughout Texas and strives to ensure they receive the maximum compensation to which they’re entitled. Call 817-645-5400 or contact me online to schedule a free consultation.