Everyone knows that drunk driving is dangerous and illegal. Yet that doesn't stop countless intoxicated people from getting behind the wheel every day. So what will motivate drivers to take DUI laws seriously? What will stop them from causing catastrophic car accidents that claim innocent lives?
One good motivator is money. While the threat of criminal charges and jail time is certainly real, the thought of having to personally pay a significant amount of cash is another way to remind drivers to stay sober.
In Florida, all accident victims are allowed to pursue compensatory damages - money to compensate for their medical bills, lost wages, etc. However, victims of drunk drivers can also pursue punitive damages.
What Are Punitive Damages?
This is essentially additional money that the drunk driver must pay out of pocket. Punitive damages are intended to punish him or her for being reckless, and it also serves as a warning to others.
According to Florida Statute 768.72, the court can only award punitive damages if the offending party was "personally guilty of intentional misconduct or gross negligence." However, driving under the influence of alcohol typically fits the definition.
How Much Extra Money Can I Get?
When awarding punitive damages, the court will look at how much the drunk driver can actually pay. In the vast majority of cases, Florida limits or "caps" the amount at $500,000 or three times as much as the compensatory damages.
Will I Automatically Be Granted Punitive Damages?
No, you won't collect punitive damages automatically. Even if a drunk driver hit you, you must still convince the jury that such damages are appropriate under the circumstances. That's where a skilled personal injury lawyer comes in. An attorney knowledgeable about drunk driving crashes can fight on your behalf and help you maximize your financial compensation.