Drunk driving is a very serious problem nationally and throughout the State of Florida. Impairment by alcohol can cause a motorist to drive erratically, at excessive speed, and without paying proper attention. Tragically, motorists who attempt to operative their motor vehicle while impaired by alcohol often causes horrific crashes that result in serious injuries or even death to the impaired driver and other innocent victims on the roadway.
Florida law recognizes the reckless and perilous nature of drunk driving, and provides recovery of punitive damages for injured victims. Punitive damages are a special variety of damages that can apply in cases where there is evidence that the person responsible for the accident was somehow impaired by alcohol. They are designed to serve as a punishment to those who cause injury due to their conscious disregard or indifference for the life, safety and rights of those around them. They are also designed to deter individuals from taking the wheel when impaired.
Where there is direct proof of intoxication (e.g. a DUI conviction), a jury may consider awarding punitive damages above and beyond the actual damages awarded in personal injury case. Even when evidence of drunk driving is purely circumstantial (e.g. the alleged intoxicated driver fled the scene), the issue of punitive damages can be presented to a jury as a question of fact. The net result is that Florida juries have a considerable measure of latitude when considering whether to award punitive damages and how much to award.
In many cases, punitive damage awards are not covered by a defendant’s liability insurance policy. Notwithstanding, the drunk driver may be held personally liable for satisfying the punitive judgment from the defendant’s personal assets. Equally significant, the defendant’s exposure to punitive damages may also weigh heavily on the insurance company’s evaluation of the case and potentially drive up the value. The insurance company will likely consider the jury’s negative feelings towards drunk drivers and their insured’s financial exposure in deciding how to handle the case.
For more information concerning Florida drunk driving and punitive damages, please feel free to call us at (813) 991-5099. We are standing by to help every day, all day.