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Can I Claim Punitive Damages in a Car Accident Case?

It can happen in an instant. The screech of the tires, the flash of the lights, the force of the impact. 

But what happens after the accident? If you or a loved one have experienced a personal injury due to someone else’s driving, you are entitled to pursue damages from the responsible party. However, you need to be aware that there are two categories of damages that you have a right to pursue.

The at-fault driver — or their insurance company — is required by law to pay what are known as compensatory damages for any injury or damage that a victim incurs. This is what most car insurance covers, and it is intended to compensate the victim for any immediate financial losses they have suffered. 

There are scenarios, however, in which the victim may also wish to pursue punitive damages — a personal injury lawsuit — against the person liable.

Why Should I Pursue Punitive Damages?

In cases of grave injury or wrongful death resulting from reckless behavior, barely recovering compensation for financial losses may not be adequate. If it can be shown that the responsible party acted in a manner they knew to be dangerous, the victim may be entitled to file a civil suit to recover further damages as well as to impose a legal punishment against the offender. 

A car accident can have life-altering effects on a person and their family. If the offending party has shown disregard for the safety of others, it is sometimes necessary to pursue punitive damages to deter any further misconduct. Precedent can also be set to deter others who may think about engaging in such reckless behavior.

3 Most Common Examples of Reckless Driving

1. Known Mechanical Problems

If a driver knowingly operates a vehicle that has serious mechanical issues and injury results, it may be considered reckless driving. 

For example, if a driver was aware that their car’s engine stalled at high speeds and they drove it on the freeway and it caused an accident, the victim could have grounds on which to pursue punitive damages. This is one reason why the state of California has very clear standards that a vehicle must meet during its safety inspection.

2. Racing/Chicken

The second scenario is probably the most common. Street racing, games of chicken, and other such reckless undertakings are some of the leading causes of traffic fatalities and injuries. 

Participants in these activities show a blatant disregard for traffic safety laws and for the innocent bystanders who may get injured as a result of their actions. It often results in multi-car collisions and injury, and can often involve pedestrians and bicyclists. Fortunately, it is one of the easier cases to prove in court.

3. DUI/DWI

While this seems like the most obvious scenario in which a victim could claim damages, it actually requires a slightly higher burden of proof on the victim. If a person was aware that serious injury or death could be a result of their driving a vehicle while inebriated or impaired, the victim may have a claim to punitive damages. These cases are a little harder to prove, and having a good attorney is key.

Contact Hann Law 

Filing a personal injury lawsuit doesn’t have to be a traumatic experience, itself. When faced with the burden of having to choose this option, a personal injury attorney is your best bet.

If you find yourself in this position, contact the attorneys at Hann Law. We will help you in your time of need and we will fight to help you get the justice you deserve. Contact us today for a free consultation.

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