It’s common to read and hear about drunk drivers causing crashes, which can result in serious injuries and fatalities. An injured victim may have a personal injury claim for his or her medical bills, lost income, injuries caused by the crash.
When a drunk driver is at fault then it is possible that he or she may be liable for payment of punitive damages as well. Punitive damages are further intended to punish and to deter others.
The Arizona case, Olson v Walker is instructive. A driver spent time drinking at a bar, then he proceeded to drive. His vehicle was swerving, traveling 50-55 miles per hour, the speed limit was 40 miles per hour. The driver cut a witness off, then rear ended a motorcyclist.
The driver got out of his car, he staggered, he smelled strongly of alcohol, and he had trouble standing. His eyes were bloodshot, his speech was slurred, he was arrested for driving while intoxicated.
A jury trial resulted in an award of $133,000.00 compensatory damages and $100,000.00 in punitive damages.
The drunk driver appealed, it was argued by the victim that the drunk driver knew that it was dangerous to drive while intoxicated and that intoxicated drivers create a substantial risk of harm to others.
A toxicologist stated that the driver consumed at least ten beers, that his blood alcohol level would have been at least .155 percent at the time of the crash. The driver also took Valium before the crash.
The Arizona Court determined that the driver disregarded the fact that his ability to drive safely was impaired, he created a substantial risk of significant harm to others. He should have known that his conduct was so egregious that it created a substantial risk of harm to others. The amount of punitive damages was upheld by the Court.