Drunk driving remains a tremendous problem in Illinois. While some progress has been made, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data shows that almost 400 people a year are killed in Illinois DUI accidents. Many thousands more are seriously injured. Almost 40 percent of all highway fatalities involve an intoxicated driver. The effects of drunk driving are devastating, and DUI accidents are preventable. Injured DUI accident victims, and their families, suffer so much because of the careless act of drunk driving. If you or a loved one was hurt by a drunk driver, you should contact an experienced Illinois car accident lawyer immediately to discuss your legal options. You may be entitled to substantial punitive damages.
Damages are Different in Drunk Driving Accidents
In most personal injury cases, including most car accidents, the standard for legal liability is negligence and the damages are purely compensatory. A person is held liable when their actions created unreasonable risk and an injury resulted from that risk. The amount of compensation awarded is directly proportional to the amount of damage caused. For example, if someone caused a car accident and you had $10,000 in medical expenses. You would be able to recover $10,000 in compensation. But drunk driving cases are different. Because drunk driving is considered to be gross negligence in Illinois, injured victims are able to recover punitive damages on top of all other damages.
What is Gross Negligence?
The Illinois Supreme Court has defined gross negligence as an extreme disregard for the safety of others. This includes both acts that intentionally harm others and acts that display complete indifference to the safety of others. It is accepted that drunk driving is gross negligence in Illinois.
What are Punitive Damages?
As opposed to compensatory damages, which are meant to be directly related to the amount of damage sustained by the victim, punitive damages are meant to punish the grossly negligent actions of the other party. But, punitive damages are still awarded to the victim. Because punitive damages are not directly related to any figure, determining the appropriate amount of punitive damages is complicated and often highly contested. The professional services of an Illinois car accident attorney, with experience handling drunk driving accident cases, are a must. Typically, in Illinois drunk driving cases, punitive damages are based off of a ratio of the amount of compensatory damages. So, your attorney will need to work hard to make sure that your compensatory damages are full and fair. DUI punitive damages can be as much as four times as high as your total compensatory damages. The state of Illinois does not tolerate drunk driving, it creates far too much risk to innocent victims. So, punitive damage awards are very often substantial.
Contact An Experienced Car Accident Attorney
There is a lot on the line in drunk driving injury cases. You should always be represented by an experienced attorney after sustaining a car accident injury, but it is even more important in DUI accident cases. The big insurance companies are well aware of the fact that drunk driving accident victims are often eligible for major punitive damage awards. Therefore, the insurance companies often try to take advantage of injured victims and get them to settle for a lowball offer very quickly. Never negotiate with an insurance company without your attorney. Contact an experienced Illinois drunk driving accident attorney today to learn more.