I Was Hit by a Drunk Driver in Charleston, am I Able to Recover Punitive Damages?
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), more than 291 citizens of the State of South Carolina died in alcohol-impaired collisions in 2018. Punitive awards are one way to attempt to deter drunk driving and decrease the number of people hurt or killed by impaired drivers.
Punitive Damages after Being Hit by a Drunk Driver
In some cases, the behavior of the defendant was so despicable that the court may decide to award punitive damages. This type of award is rare, and it is designed to not only punish the guilty party, but also to use the guilty party as an example to society as a whole to discourage similar behavior in others in the future. Punitive damages are not intended as the primary means of compensation, though they are a financial award; instead, they are an additional amount that goes to the victim on top of any compensatory damages already awarded.
How are Punitive Damages Awarded?
While punitive damages are specifically intended to punish defendants for egregious wrongdoing, they can be awarded only if a plaintiff proves that their injuries were the result of a defendant’s willful, wanton, or reckless conduct. Willful, wanton, and reckless are more severe than gross negligence, which means the failure to exercise care. These definitions are important because defendants, in order to avoid paying these damages, will often argue that their conduct constitutes gross negligence rather than willful, wanton, or reckless conduct.
In South Carolina, a Judge will consider a number of factors when determining whether a punitive claim should be allowed. These factors include:
- defendant’s level of intoxication (i.e. blood alcohol level)
- defendant’s liability for the accident
- any previous drunk driving convictions for the defendant
- severity of your injuries
Hit by a Drunk Driver in Charleston?
If you have been injured in a collision caused by a drunk driver, you are able to recover the typical compensatory damages that are allowed in most collision claims (Medical Bills, Lost Wages, Pain & Suffering, etc.). However, as discussed above, you may also be entitled to recover punitive damages due to the extreme reckless conduct of the defendant.
Although the impaired driver who caused the collision may have been arrested on the scene, the criminal charges will only punish the person who caused the accident in the only way that the criminal justice system knows how: with jail time, fines and fees to the state, loss of driving privileges, and so on. Any resulting punishment stemming from the criminal charges will not, however, compensate you and your loved ones for the costs of the accident. A personal injury lawsuit in civil court is how you seek compensation after a drunk driving accident, in the form of legal damages.
Obtain Punitive Damages in South Carolina
Though it is difficult to obtain punitive damages, an experienced drunk driving accident lawyer can pursue punitive damages by proving that the drunk driver showed conscious disregard for the safety of other South Carolinians when he or she chose to drive on our roadways after drinking alcohol.
If you or a loved one has been hurt in a car wreck caused by a drunk driver, do not hesitate to reach out to Attorney Trey Harrell because he and his team will do everything in their power to hold the drunk driver accountable for their extremely reckless conduct on your behalf. Simply call our office at 843.636.TREY or fill out this simple form to schedule a FREE consultation to have your rights thoroughly explained to better allow you to figure out the next steps.
Disclaimer: Information in this blog is intended for informative purposes only and not legal advice. Please consult with a licensed attorney before you make any decisions on legal matters. Further, viewing of this information does not create an attorney-client relationship with Trey Harrell Auto Accident and Personal Injury Attorney. Matters will be handled by an attorney who primarily practice out of our office in Charleston County located at 2000 Sam Rittenberg Blvd. Charleston, SC 29407. Robert W. “Trey” Harrell, III is the attorney responsible for this posting.