Williams, Walsh & O'Connor, LLC

Drunk drivers can be punished with civil lawsuits

Everyone knows that drunk driving is a crime punishable by fines, jail time and the loss of driving privileges. But you may not realize that drunk drivers can also be held accountable in civil court.

If a drunk driver injures or kills someone, the injury victim or surviving family can file a personal injury suit against the drunk driver. While it is normal to award compensatory damages in car accident cases, the court may also award punitive damages in drunk driving accident cases. Punitive damages are different from compensatory damages because they are meant to punish the drunk driver for his or her actions.

Compensatory damages are intended to financially compensate injured people for the losses they suffer as a result of an accident. Typically, they cover the cost of the injury victim's medical expenses, pain and suffering, lost income and benefits, loss of consortium, loss of enjoyment of life and more. In wrongful death cases, compensatory damages can also include funeral and burial expenses and the loss of the income the victim would have earned.

While it is much rarer, in cases such as drunk driving accidents, a jury may also award punitive damages to the victim and/or family. Connecticut law states that punitive damages can be awarded for "conduct that is outrageous, because of the defendant's reckless indifference to the rights of others or an intentional and wanton violation of those rights." In drunk driving cases, the decision to drive under the influence is not just negligent behavior, but a reckless indifference to the well-being of others.

If you or a family member has been injured by a drunk driver, you will want to talk to a lawyer about your case. An experienced personal injury attorney can assess your case and discuss whether you can seek punitive damages in addition to compensatory damages.

All car accident cases are unique. To learn how the law applies to your case, speak with an attorney.

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