Everyone knows the dangers of drunk driving. Yet hundreds of Georgia residents still die each year in crashes involving a drunk driver. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that between 2003 and 2012 there were about 3,700 DWI-related deaths in Georgia alone.
But even when drunk driving is not fatal, it can still leave innocent victims with serious, life-threatening injuries. Drunk driving is not simply reckless or negligent. It is a criminal offense in Georgia, and victims may be entitled to punitive damages on top of compensation for their economic and non-economic damages.
An Atlanta drunk driving accident attorney provides invaluable assistance to victims and their families still struggling to recover from the physical and mental injuries. At the offices of Calvin A. Edwards, Jr., Attorney, we have an experienced team ready to serve you. We understand the complexity of car accident cases, and we know how to deal with drunk drivers and their defense attorneys.
What Type of Behavior Constitutes “Drunk Driving”?
The commonly understood definition of drunk driving in Georgia is having a blood-alcohol content of at least 0.08 percent, as measured by a chemical (blood, breath, or urine) test. But that is not the only definition. Drunk driving can also refer to driving under the influence of prescription medications, over-the-counter drugs, and of course controlled substances like marijuana and cocaine. It is also possible to prove a driver is legally intoxicated without a chemical test based on other evidence, such as a police officer’s observations at the accident scene.
Incidentally, this is why you should always call the police if you have been in a car accident. Georgia law enforcement officers are trained to spot the signs of drunk driving. And if you suspect the other driver is drunk, you should talk to other witnesses at the scene and even make a recording with your smartphone. Any evidence you are able to gather in the moment can help you prove drunk driving in a subsequent personal injury lawsuit.
How Do Punitive Damages Work in Drunk Driving Accident Cases?
If you are injured in any type of car accident caused by driver negligence, Georgia law allows you to recover damages for both your economic losses–medical bills, lost wages, et cetera–and non-economic “pain and suffering.” However, if the driver was not simply negligent but also “showed willful misconduct” or a “want of care which would raise the presumption conscious indifference to consequences,” you can also seek punitive damages. Drunk driving generally qualifies as “willful misconduct,” as it shows the driver had no regard for the people who could be harmed as a result of his or her actions.
Punitive damages often result in substantially higher monetary awards for drunk driving accident victims. Such awards also send an important message that Georgia has zero-tolerance for drunk driving. But punitive damages are not automatic. The victim must prove the defendant’s willful misconduct by “clear and convincing evidence,” which is higher than the normal standard for proving negligence.
This is yet another reason why you need to work with an Atlanta drunk driving accident attorney. Our team can walk you through the complex process of investigating your accident, negotiating with insurance companies and defense attorneys, and ultimately going to court if a settlement is simply not possible. At the offices of Calvin A. Edwards, Attorney, we are hear from you from start-to-finish. Call our offices today at 470-539-8528 to schedule a free consultation. There is no risk or obligation–just come in and tell us your story.