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Paul Englander, PLC

Injury Attorney In Arizona

Punitive Damages in Drunk Driving Cases

Punitive Damages in Drunk Driving Cases

Drunk Driving Accident Lawyer Phoenix, AZ

It’s common to read and hear about drunk drivers causing crashes, which can result in serious injuries and fatalities. Wrong-way crashes have been reported with more frequency. Two out of three wrong-way crashes are caused by impaired drivers. 

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 intended to punish and to deter others from similar wrongful conduct.

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, much higher than the legal limit. The driver also took Valium before the crash.

The Arizona Court of Appeals 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.

Sometimes bars are negligent and overserve alcohol to their customers. Bars may also be liable for paying punitive damages in cases of overservice, or by violating Arizona liquor service laws, regulations.  

A drunk driving accident lawyer Phoenix, AZ trusts can investigate fault, applicable insurance coverage, and potential claims for injuries, lost income, medical bills.  There should be no fees for a consultation, there should be no fees unless a settlement is obtained.  Call the law offices of Paul Englander, PLC today.

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