Drunk Driving Car Accidents
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, nearly one-third of all traffic fatalities occur due to drunk driving. Despite decades of outreach spotlighting the dangers of drunk driving, approximately 28 Americans are fatally injured every day in alcohol-related wrecks.
Statistics show that potential stiff penalties, incarceration, and fines have done little to eliminate drunk driving. In 2015 366 people died in Georgia in accidents related to alcohol impairment.
The physical and financial devastation caused by drunk driving is obvious. When a driver gets behind the wheel after drinking alcohol, they not only put themselves at risk but also all surrounding drivers.
Punitive Damages Are Often Available in DUI Cases
Georgia allows car accident victims to pursue compensation for financial losses related to the wreck. This may include medical bills, property damage, and lost wages. Additionally, an injured party may be entitled to compensation for their pain and suffering related to their injuries.
When alcohol is involved in a car accident, punitive damages are available to victims, not as compensation, but to deter, penalize, or punish a defendant. Georgia generally caps punitive damage awards at $250,000 pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 51-12-5.1, but exemptions to this rule apply in DUI cases. Accordingly, if a defendant was under the influence of alcohol there is no cap on damages that may be awarded. Punitive damage awards are paid in addition to compensatory damage awards.
Victims Must Establish Drinking Was a Factor in a Car Accident
In most cases, law enforcement will arrest a driver for DUI if the driver fails or refuses a field sobriety test. Often it is beneficial to allow the criminal case against a DUI defendant to proceed first when filing a personal injury lawsuit. A DUI conviction bolsters a victim’s claims considerably. Even if a DUI defendant is acquitted, a victim can seek damages at trial and establish by other independent evidence and testimony that alcohol was a contributing factor in a crash.
Sometimes victims of drunk driving car accidents can take legal action against other parties such as a bar or social host. in connection with the crash. The Georgia Dram Shop Act, O.C.G.A. § 51-1-40, holds that a person (bar or social host) who willfully, knowingly, and unlawfully sells, furnishes, or serves alcoholic beverages to a person who is not of lawful drinking age, knowing that such person will soon be driving a motor vehicle, or who knowingly sells, furnishes, or serves alcoholic beverages to a person who is in a state of noticeable intoxication, knowing that such person will soon be driving a motor vehicle, can be held liable for subsequent injuries caused by the intoxicated driver.