How Punitive Damages for a DUI Accident Can be Over 250K in 2024

Punitive damages serve a unique purpose in DUI accident claims. While compensatory damages (also known as economic damages) aim to cover the tangible losses and pain an injured person has suffered, such as medical bills, punitive damages are designed to penalize particularly egregious or reckless behavior. These are not just awarded for simple mistakes but for willful and grossly negligent actions. The intent is twofold: to punish the wrongdoer for their intentional or extremely careless conduct and to deter them and others from repeating such behavior in the future. However, securing punitive damages can be a rigorous process. Even if a jury grants them, a judge can review and adjust the decision if deemed excessive.

What Types of Legal Claims Can Be Awarded Punitive Damages

Such damages are awarded in situations reflecting extreme recklessness or malicious intent by the defendant, encompassing acts like intentional physical assault, fraudulent activities, defamation, and unfair insurance claim denials. Punitive damages might also be relevant in employment-related misconduct, deliberate environmental harm, intentional trespassing resulting in injury, and deliberate mistreatment of vulnerable adults. While these scenarios can lead to punitive damages, there’s no guarantee, as the onus lies on the plaintiff to demonstrate the defendant’s notably malicious or reckless actions.

Punitive Damages for Personal Injury Cases do Have a 250K Cap

In Georgia, punitive damages in personal injury cases are generally capped at $250,000, as outlined by O.C.G.A. § 51-12-5.1. Although the cap sets a maximum, actual awarded amounts often fall below this threshold. Punitive damages are determined in the negotiation process that goes on between your personal injury lawyer and the insurance company. It’s crucial to understand that many of these cases result in out-of-court settlements, the details of which often remain confidential.

In DUI or DWI Accident Cases, the $250k Cap on Punitive Damages Doesn’t Apply

Exceptions to this cap include instances where the defendant had a specific intent to cause harm or was intoxicated. The law specifically states the following:

O.C.G.A. § 51-12-5.1 (f) In a tort case in which the cause of action does not arise from product liability, if it is found that the defendant acted, or failed to act, with the specific intent to cause harm, or that the defendant acted or failed to act while under the influence of alcohol, drugs other than lawfully prescribed drugs administered in accordance with prescription, or any intentionally consumed glue, aerosol, or other toxic vapor to that degree that his or her judgment is substantially impaired, there shall be no limitation regarding the amount which may be awarded as punitive damages against an active tort-feas or but such damages shall not be the liability of any defendant other than an active tort-feasor.

This makes it so if you can prove that the at-fault driver was drunk or intoxicated on any drugs, there is no limit on how much punitive damages you can receive.

How High Can Punitive Damages Be in a DUI Accident Claim?

Punitive Damages from a DUI accident can be over a million. Its important to know that to achieve a settlement this high the other damages must also be high. With other damages being high, like medical bills, and other standard accident costs, this would mean that it was a very severe wreck. Your DUI accident attorney would also have to prove that the driver was intoxicated.

How DUI Accident Lawyers Determine the Punitive Damage Amount They Want to Settle For

There is no equation or ratio that personal injury attorneys go off of when determining punitive damages.

Personal injury lawyers consider a variety of factors when estimating what their client should seek in punitive damages. However, it’s important to understand that while attorneys can suggest or argue for a certain amount, the decision to award punitive damages—and the amount—is typically challenged if the defense believes its unreasonable.

Here are some factors personal injury lawyers might consider when calculating potential punitive damages:

Severity of the Wrong doing: Punitive damages are typically awarded in cases where the defendant’s actions were particularly egregious, reckless, or malicious. The more severe the misconduct, the higher the punitive damages might be. If you were in a very bad accident and your DUI accident attorney can prove that it was clearly because of the intoxicated driver they will likely be more aggressive on getting more punitive damages.

Defendant’s Conduct: If the defendant’s behavior shows a blatant disregard for others’ safety, or if the defendant has a history of similar actions, a lawyer might argue for higher punitive damages. Remember the purpose of punitive damages is to punish the driver. If the drivers attitude is displaying no remorse, expect your DUI accident attorney to go for more.

Actual Damages Incurred: While punitive damages are separate from compensatory damages (those that compensate the victim for their actual losses), as mentioned previously about DUI accidents valued into the millions, the magnitude of the actual damages can influence the amount sought in punitive damages. A case with significant physical, emotional, or financial harm might justify a higher punitive award. If there are little to no damages, do not expect the punitive damages to be much.

Ability to Recover Compensation: The financial situation of the defendant, along with the available insurance coverage, can influence the amount of punitive damages. If a defendant is a large corporation or an individual with significant assets, a lawyer might argue for a higher punitive damages amount to ensure the punishment is felt. If the defendant has no insurance coverage, and no assets, it will be difficult to get any punitive damages.

Similar Cases: Lawyers often look at the outcomes of similar cases to gauge what is reasonable or achievable in terms of punitive damages. This can provide a benchmark for what juries or judges have deemed appropriate in similar circumstances.

Public Policy and Deterrence: One of the primary purposes of punitive damages is to deter others from engaging in similar behavior. Lawyers might argue for higher damages if they believe it will serve as a strong public statement against such behavior.

Likelihood of Success: If a lawyer believes the case for punitive damages is especially strong, they might seek a higher amount. Conversely, if it’s a borderline case, they might be more conservative in their estimation. It’s essential to recognize that calculating punitive damages is not an exact science. It’s a combination of legal strategy, understanding of the law, and the specifics of the individual case. If someone believes they have a claim that could warrant punitive damages, they should consult with a qualified personal injury attorney to get a professional assessment.

Do Insurance Companies Cover Punitive Damages in DUI Injury Claims?

Typically, insurance policies are designed to cover the damages in a car accidents, which means they pay for actual losses and injuries sustained by victims. Punitive damages, on the other hand, are intended to punish the wrongdoer and deter similar behavior. Because of this punitive intent, many insurance policies in various states, including Georgia, explicitly exclude coverage for punitive damages. However, the specific terms and conditions of the at-fault party’s insurance policy play a crucial role. Insurance companies will pay for the punitive damages if they don’t explicitly say they will not on the policy.

Thank you for the excellent customer service and patience I received from Ms. Franco 😊👍🏼

five stars
Alejandrina B.

Will Insurance Cover Punitive Damages Beyond Policy Limits in DUI Injury Cases?

Insurance policies typically come with predefined coverage limits, which set the maximum amount the insurance company will pay for a particular claim. When it comes to punitive damages in DUI injury cases, if these damages are awarded and exceed the policy limits, the insurer is generally only obligated to pay up to the specified limit in the policy. Any amount beyond that would typically be the responsibility of the at-fault party. It’s crucial to note, however, that many insurance policies might exclude punitive damages altogether due to their intended punitive nature. As always, the specifics of each case and the exact wording of the insurance policy in question can greatly impact the outcome.

linkedin icon