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Can I Seek Punitive Damages from a Drunk Driver?


There’s no excuse for driving drunk: This exceptional form of negligence puts thousands of lives in danger every year across America. Even if the perpetrator is ultimately charged with a criminal DUI, however, it may not be enough to make up for their careless actions – especially when they have caused a major car accident with an innocent victim.

If you’ve been hurt because of a drunk driver’s negligence, you can pursue compensation from them with a civil personal injury lawsuit. In some cases, you may even be able to seek punitive damages, which is a form of compensation intended to punish the defendant for extremely reckless behavior. First, though, you’ll need to show that the driver committed “gross negligence.”

What Constitutes Gross Negligence?

Drunk driving almost always qualifies as basic negligence, because drivers are legally required to keep their blood alcohol levels under the legal limit and avoid putting their fellow drivers at risk. However, provinggross negligence can be a different story altogether, and securing punitive damages can be much tougher in practice than it is in theory.

Here are the two points you’ll need to establish when proving gross negligence:

  1. That the at-fault driver should have known there was an objective, extreme risk to their actions.
  2. That the at-fault driver consciously did not care that their actions could be harmful.

The second part is often the most difficult to prove in a gross negligence claim, precisely because it requires a clear intent on part of the negligent driver. When considering if a drunk driver was consciously indifferent to your safety, the jury will have to look at a number of factors.

These factors can include:

  • The driver’s character and history, including past DUIs
  • The driver’s net worth and ability to pay for high punitive damages
  • The extremity of your injuries and the crash
  • The driver’s state of mental health and rational decision-making ability
  • Whether the driver was with peers and friends at the time

Powerful Representation to Help You Seek Justice

Of course, the best way to determine eligibility for punitive damages is to speak with a qualified attorney as quickly as possible. From investigating the crash scene to gathering witness statements, your lawyer can help you get a better understanding of what happened – and whether the drunk driver in your case was grossly negligent.

At the Law Office of James M. Stanley, we’ve been representing injured Texans in tragic cases like these for nearly four decades. Strategic and always ready for trial, we work hard to ensure that our clients can get the best possible outcome from their injury case. Whether you have grounds for punitive damages or not, one thing is certain: You deserve compensation to cover your medical costs and other expenses. Let us help you fight for that compensation.

Call (817) 591-4222 today to speak with our legal team in Fort Worth.

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