Are Punitive Damages Available if You Were the Victim of a Drunk-Driving Crash?
Posted on behalf of Phillips Law Group on Sep 11, 2020 in Auto Accidents
Arizona does not have a specific statute telling judges when they can allow punitive damages to be awarded, including in drunk-driving cases.
However, courts follow a standard set by previous cases: if the plaintiff and/or his or her lawyer can prove the at-fault party was acting with an “evil mind”, punitive damages may be available. While there is no set definition of acting with an evil mind, driving drunk may fit the bill.
As this is a complex legal issue, it is important to seek help from a licensed attorney. At Phillips Law Group, we are committed not only to pursuing compensation for your damages, but also holding the at-fault party accountable for the harm they have caused. Punitive damages are meant to punish at-fault parties and discourage others from engaging in similar conduct.
Punitive Damages in Arizona
The key question to answer when seeking punitive damages is whether the at-fault party acted with an evil mind. Court decisions in Arizona have helped to narrow down two situations where a person could be said to have acted with an evil mind:
- The at-fault party displayed ill will and caused you harm with his or her intentional actions
- The at-fault party knew his or her actions were unsafe with a high likelihood of someone getting hurt, yet he or she acted anyway
In a drunk-driving case, you may be able to use the second criteria to validate your punitive damages claim. It is commonly known driving under the influence of alcohol is dangerous, both for the driver and others on the road. Driving drunk is against the law because it is so dangerous and increases the risk for an accident that is likely to harm others.
Your lawyer will need to prove the other driver was drunk – he or she should be able to do this with the toxicology report on the other driver and/or the police report. If the police have reason to suspect drunk driving, they are likely to do a field sobriety test or breathalyzer test. The results of these tests should be in the police report.
It may also be possible to find witnesses who can testify about the at-fault driver’s drinking. For example, maybe the driver was at a party or a bar and was drinking before getting behind the wheel.
It is important to note there is no guarantee you can pursue punitive damages in a drunk-driving lawsuit. The level of intoxication of the at-fault driver is an important factor – the higher his or her level of intoxication, the higher the likelihood you may be eligible for punitive damages.
What About Punishing the Establishment That Served the Drunk Driver?
Under Arizona law, licensed restaurants and bars can potentially be held liable for serving intoxicated individuals, if three criteria are met:
- Alcohol was sold to someone who was obviously intoxicated
- The at-fault driver consumed the alcohol that was purchased
- Alcohol consumption was the proximate cause of injury or death
The statute defines intoxicated as being drunk to the point where impairment is obvious due to uncoordinated physical actions or significant physical dysfunction.
While the establishment may be liable for economic and non-economic damages, they may also face punitive damages, if the court finds the establishment acted in a way to aggravate or outrage.
Are You a Victim of a Drunk-Driving Crash? Call Phillips Law Group
Those who were injured or lost a loved one in a collision with a drunk driver may be eligible for compensation for damages. This includes medical bills for treating injuries, lost wages, pain and suffering, and damages suffered by the family if the victim died.
We know compensation can never change what occurred, but it can be an important part of the recovery process. We have a proven track record of recovering compensation for our clients.
Our founder Jeffrey Phillips has served as lead counsel in more than 40 jury trials and is a member of many legal organizations, including Motor Vehicle Trial Lawyers Association – Top 25, National Brain Injury Trial Lawyers – Top 25 and the American Association for Justice.
We are not paid for our services unless our clients receive compensation. That means no upfront fees or costs while working on your case.
Phillips Law Group. Legal Help When You Need It. 1-800-706-3000