California Drunk Driving Accidents Can Result in Punitive Damages
When a person suffers serious injuries or is killed by a drunk driver, the negligent motorist can face serious criminal penalties. Additionally, the victim or his or her family may also be able to file a civil lawsuit against the drunk driver to obtain damages for the injuries he or she caused.
Most legal actions in California allow for plaintiffs to be awarded compensatory damages that are generally intended to “make them whole” again by providing monetary awards for many out-of-pocket expenses. In drunk driving cases, defendants may also be ordered to pay punitive damages—awards occasionally referred to as “exemplary damages” which are specifically intended to punish people for particularly egregious or reckless conduct.
Did you sustain severe injuries or was your loved one killed in a drunk driving accident in Southern California? You will want to contact the Law Firm of Tawni Takagi as soon as possible. Call (310) 954-7248 to have our experienced Los Angeles personal injury lawyer review your case and discuss all of your legal options during a free consultation.
How Drunk Driving Cases Are Handled in California
Following a drunk driving accident, a law enforcement agency will typically arrest the motorist who was operating under the influence of drugs or alcohol. A state’s attorney will then typically prosecute the case.
If a person is convicted of drunk driving (formally referred to as driving under the influence or DUI), the conviction can serve as evidence of that person’s negligence in a separate civil action. Even if the driver is able to have the charges reduced or dismissed, he or her may still be found liable in a civil case.
Perhaps the best example of the different outcomes possible in criminal and civil cases is the infamous case of O.J. Simpson, who was found not guilty in his criminal murder trial but was found liable in his civil wrongful death trial. The important distinction between criminal and civil cases concerns the burden of proof, which is much lower in civil cases than it is in criminal cases. Civil cases require a preponderance of the evidence, meaning a defendant “more likely than not” committed an alleged act whereas criminal cases require a evidence that demonstrates guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, effectively the highest possible burden.
Punitive Damages for Drunk Driving
The seminal case in California relating to punitive damages for drunk driving is the California Supreme Court’s decision in Taylor v. Superior Court (1979) 24 Cal.3d 890, 892. In that case, the court held that the act of operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated can constitute an act of “malice” that can justify a punitive damage award.
California Drunk Driving Accident Lawyer
If you suffered catastrophic injuries or your loved one was killed in a DUI accident in Southern California, it is in your best interest to immediately retain legal counsel. The Law Firm of Tawni Takagi fights to get justice for clients all over the greater Los Angeles area.
Our personal injury attorney can conduct a thorough independent investigation of your crash and will work tirelessly to make sure all negligent parties are held accountable. You can have our firm provide a complete evaluation of your case when you call (310) 954-7248 or contact us online to receive a free consultation.