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Drunk drivers are a major reason for the growing number of car accidents that result in injuries and deaths. To stem this growing pandemic, most states have enacted legislation that imposes criminal and administrative penalties for driving under the influence. However, these laws do not bar a victim from pursuing the drunk driver who caused the accident in which the victim suffered physical injuries or property loss.
In addition to general (non-economic) and special (economic) damages, a victim of a drunk driving accident may be awarded punitive damages as well.
Following an accident caused by a drunk driver, you should immediately file a claim with both your insurance company as well as with the at-fault driver's insurance company. However, settlement amounts may not cover all of your damages, especially if you suffered extensive physical injuries. In cases where insurance claims cannot fully compensate you, you have the option of pursuing a suit against the driver in civil court. In many drunk driving injury cases, juries award punitive damages as well as other damages which together often exceed the maximum settlement you could obtain.
Punitive damages are awarded in cases where the tortfeasor acted with impunity or with wanton disregard for others. These particular damages are meant to "punish" the wrongdoer and deter him or her from repeating the tortious act. Drunk driving is a conscious choice that endangers others. Therefore, courts allow punitive damages in these cases. However, some states provide a maximum cap to the amount that may be awarded.
Talk with an experienced attorney to discuss suing for damages in an accident caused by a drunk driver.