If you have been hit by a drunk driver or a driver who was high on drugs, you may be considering claiming compensation from that driver, assuming that they were insured. The driver who hit you may also be charged with an offense such as DUI or reckless driving, but this won’t pay your hospital bills or get your car repaired. You will need to make a personal injury claim against the other driver’s insurance policy.
Most personal injury claims are made up of what are called compensatory damages. These are the costs to you as the injured party which are borne because you were injured or your vehicle was damaged through no fault of your own.
Typical compensatory damages include compensation for medical treatment, lost wages, the cost of alternative transportation while your vehicle is repaired and property damage.
These damages are usually fairly easy to calculate. The danger comes from underestimating the amounts, especially if the injuries sustained are severe, long term or permanent. Once you have made your claim and the amount you asked for is accepted and paid, you can’t go back a few years later and ask for more if you underestimated the amount involved.
Most people who suffer serious injuries in an auto accident will hire a personal injury attorney to help them with the claim. An experienced attorney like Keith Williams and his tea at Nashville Injury Attorney will be careful to make sure your compensatory damages are calculated correctly ad hire experts to help with the claim if there is doubt about long term medical treatment.
Another type of damages which are sometimes claimed, especially if there has been excessive negligence, is called punitive damages. This is basically a financial punishment made against the at-fault party as a result of their negligence. It is not made to compensate the injured party for a specific cost.
If you were hit by a drunk or drugged driver, then your chances of being awarded punitive damages are significantly higher, but there must be evidence that the driver had been driving under the influence at the time you were struck, i.e. he/she had a blood alcohol level of greater than 0.08%, or was tested and found to have been under the influence of a controlled substance. This really depends on whether police are able to gain a conviction if they suspect that the driver was driving under the influence at the time of the accident.
Punitive damages may also be awarded for other reasons in addition to drunken or drugged driving. Tennessee law permits punitive damages being paid “if the claimant proves by clear and convincing evidence that the defendant against whom punitive damages are sought acted maliciously, intentionally, fraudulently or recklessly.” For example, if the driver hit you while deliberately tailgating and trying to intimidate you. This might seem like something out of a movie, but the reality is that there is a small, probably very small, percentage of drivers who do not drive rationally. They may suffer from mental illness or have a grudge they want to work out of their system. Whatever the reason, if you are hit by this kind of driver, you may be entitled to claim punitive damages in addition to other damages you would expect to be paid.
How much in punitive damages can be paid?
Tennessee has a cap on the amount of punitive damages that can be paid, but this has been contested in court and the maximum amount allowed may change if the law is changed by a Supreme Court ruling. At the moment, Tennessee law stipulates that the maximum amount of punitive damages should be twice the amount paid in compensatory damages or $500,000, whichever is the greater.
Contact Nashville Injury Attorney for advice about punitive damages
You are more likely to recover compensation from an at-fault driver’s insurer if you use an experienced car accident attorney. Keith Williams and his team at Nashville Injury Attorney have built a solid reputation for successful car accident claims. They have recovered millions of dollars in compensation for their many clients. Ring the office for an online or phone appointment at 615-395-3003.