If you are harmed in an accident, you deserve to pursue compensation for the full extent of the damages you suffered. However, when these accidents result from a defendant’s malicious or egregious actions, you may also be able to pursue punitive damages for the harm you endured.
What does this mean exactly? In Louisiana, if you were injured because someone was intoxicated, you may be able to obtain this punitive damages award. However, to better help you understand what these damages mean, we have prepared the following blog post. In it, we will take a closer look at when these punitive damages apply and what evidence is needed to prove that you are entitled to these damages.
Understanding Punitive Damages
In general, there are two types of damages they include compensatory and punitive damages. Compensatory damages were created to compensate the victim for their injuries and to make them whole. On the other hand, punitive damages are intended to punish the defendant for their egregious actions and to deter them and others from committing these wrongful acts again in the future.
When Do Punitive Damages Apply in Louisiana?
In Louisiana, there is a general policy against handing out punitive damages unless it is expressly allowed by the statute. In fact, most personal injury claims do not give rise to punitive damages. There are only five articles in the Louisiana Civil Code that allow for punitive damages- child pornography, criminal sexual activity with a minor (such as child sexual abuse), domestic violence, and drunk driving. The fifth article allows for punitive damages when two out of the following three elements are met:
- The state where the resulting harm occurred allows for punitive damages
- The state where the harmful conduct occurred allows punitive damages and
- The state where the liable party is domiciled allows punitive damages
Recovering Punitive Damages in a Drunk Driving Accident
Before you can recover punitive damages for the harm that you endured because of a drunk driving accident. You first need to prove the following three elements:
- The driver responsible for the crash was intoxicated or consumed a significant amount of drugs or alcohol, making them lose control of their physical and mental capabilities.
- The at-fault driver’s intoxication is the direct and proximate cause of your motor vehicle collision injuries.
- These injuries were caused by the at-fault driver’s wanton or reckless disregard for others’ safety and rights.
Basically speaking, you need to show that the driver who hit you was intoxicated, and due to this intoxication, you suffered significant injuries as a result.
How To Build a Strong Case For Punitive Damages Following a Drunk Driving Accident
Unfortunately, if you have been harmed in a drunk driving accident, it is not enough to show that the motorist was drunk for you to recover punitive damages. In fact, to obtain these damages, you need to provide detailed evidence showing the liable party was intoxicated and their intoxication caused your injuries. This evidence can include:
- Police Reports: If you have been harmed in a drunk driving accident, you need to report this accident to the authorities. Calling 911 following a crash is the fastest way to get your accident on record and get the police to the scene. As soon as the police arrive, you must notify them about any suspicions you have regarding the other driver and whether they are drunk. These police officers may even have the other driver tested for the presence of alcohol or drugs at the scene or the hospital if they had to be transported there.
- Your Statement: When speaking with the police, make sure that as part of your statement, you indicate if you saw any signs of drunk driving before the accident occurred. For instance, weaving between lanes, slowing or speeding down for no reason, crossing the centerline, slurring or stumbling after the accident, and any other erratic behavior.
- Witnesses: If there were any witnesses at the scene of the accident, who saw what happened. Make sure you get their name and number. These witness statements can not only provide you with vital evidence but also help back up your claims.
- Take Photos and Videos: If the area is safe, make sure you take pictures and videos of the accident scene. This includes photos of empty alcohol bottles or any other incriminating evidence. Plus, if you can, take a video of the other driver. A video showing the at-fault party stumbling, having bloodshot eyes, or even slurred speech can help establish the accident resulted from their intoxication.
- Surveillance Videos: It may also be a good idea to check with buildings near the accident scene whether they have any cameras or surveillance equipment that may have caught the crash on video. These tapes can show exactly what happened and whether the defendant may have been drunk.
- Field Sobriety Tests: If the police suspect that the at-fault motorist was impaired in any way, they may have them perform a field sobriety test to show whether they were operating under the influence of alcohol or drugs. If there is strong evidence of drunk driving, the officer may arrest the at-fault party, and you can use this evidence to your advantage.
- Online Posts: If there are any published posts on social media sites showing or indicating the at-fault motorist was drinking alcohol or doing drugs before the crash occurred, they can be instrumental in strengthening your injury claim.
- Receipts: If there are any receipts indicating that the at-fault party purchased alcohol before the crash, it may help show that their intoxication played a role in causing your harm.
Unfortunately, it is extremely difficult to obtain all of this critical evidence and show that the liable party was intoxicated and their intoxication led to your injuries. That is why if you have been injured in an accident because another person was under the influence of alcohol or drugs, you must contact an experienced personal injury lawyer as soon as possible.
Fight for the Justice and Punitive Damages You Deserve- Contact an Experienced Personal Injury Attorney Today
If you want to ensure that you fight for the punitive damages you deserve following an accident where the responsible party was intoxicated. You need to make sure you work with an experienced and knowledgeable personal injury attorney. Once retained, these lawyers can promptly provide you the legal help you need to go after these damages, including:
- Discussing your case in detail, going over any questions you have, and determining the legal options you can pursue
- Investigating the accident thoroughly and securing valuable evidence needed to prove fault and damages
- Bringing in the experts such as accident reconstructionists to substantiate your claims
- Taking your case to trial, if the other side is unwilling to negotiate and fight for maximum damages
If you or a loved one has been harmed by someone under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Do not wait any longer. Contact Charbonnet Law Firm, LLC today, or call our office at (504) 294-5094, and let our legal team help you get the punitive damages you deserve.