Louisiana is known for good times and big parties. Sometimes, a person can have a bit too much of a good thing and then attempt to drive home. Recently, Louisiana police have reported more than 28,000 car accidents a year involving a driver with a positive blood alcohol concentration. Does this number translate to 28,000 at-fault drivers? Let’s answer that question right now!

Being involved in a car accident is always a bad day, but the situation is made even worse when one driver is intoxicated. Driving under the influence is a serious offense and will bring about its own criminal sanctions. That isn’t the end of it, though. It will also be used against the driver for determining fault for the car collision.

Our state laws permit, in certain circumstances, the victim of an accident caused by drunk drivers to obtain punitive damages. This may be awarded to a victim of a drunk driver by a judge or jury, and include restitution for mental and physical anguish, loss of consortium, loss of ability to work, and more. Louisiana Civil Code article 2315.4 holds the key for punitive damages to be recovered. It states “in addition to general and special damages, exemplary damages may be awarded upon proof that the injuries on which the action is based were caused by a wanton and reckless disregard for the rights and safety of others by a defendant whose intoxication while operating a motor vehicle was a cause in fact of the resulting injuries.”

That isn’t to say these punitive damages are automatic. You need a lawyer fighting on your side! Louisiana law lays out three necessary elements that must be proven in order to obtain damages: 

#1 The driver was intoxicated or had consumed a sufficient quantity of intoxicants to make him lose control of his mental or physical faculties

#2 The intoxication was a cause in fact of the resulting injuries

#3 The injuries were caused by the driver’s wanton and reckless disregard for the rights and safety of others. 

When a drunk driver is involved in a car accident, most people assume that they were the ones who caused the collision. However, that isn’t always the case. In addition to proving intoxication, you must also prove that the driver’s intoxication was a cause in fact of the resulting injuries to be awarded punitive damages. As stated above, it must also be proven that the driver acted in a “wanton and reckless” disregard for the rights and safety of others. The courts have not come up with a precise definition of what these terms means, so this is a highly subjective test. You can bet that the driver’s lawyers will argue this element was not met! The court ruled in Bourgeois v. State Farm that simple proof that a person was driving under the influence of alcohol and that he might have been impaired, by itself, will not always be sufficient to establish the “wanton and reckless” element. 

Don’t take this to mean you won’t win a case against a drunk driver. Our Covington personal injury lawyers are here to fight for what you deserve, including punitive damages. Call us at (985) 892-1955 or email us at office@ecbadeauxlaw.com. We’d like to hear your story. The consultation is free!

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