Despite Arizona’s harsh driving under the influence (DUI) laws, the Arizona Department of Transportation reported nearly 5,000 alcohol-related crashes in 2017 alone and on average, costs the U.S. over $130 billion each year. The good news is that drunk driving deaths in Arizona have decreased by 45% in recent years.
Arizona is praised for having some of the toughest DUI laws in the United States. Even first-time offenders spend time in jail and will face monetary penalties starting at $1,500. Criminal charges help deter drunk driving by imposing steep fines and jail sentences on violators. Unfortunately, adequate compensation to the victims injured in drunk driving accidents is typically not provided.
If you have been hit by a drunk driver, you can seek a settlement from the at-fault driver’s insurance company in order to compensate your family for the losses incurred as a result of the accident. Speaking with an experienced personal injury lawyer will help you understand your options for moving forward and getting back to where you were before the car crash occurred.
Monetary Damages in a Drunk Driving Case
In any personal injury civil case in Arizona, you can seek special damages and general damages in a civil suit. Arizona also allows you to seek punitive damages against the other driver, and to seek third party damages against the restaurant or bar that served alcohol to the driver.
Special damages include any economic damages you incur as a result of the drunk driving accident.
These include any expense that comes with a bill, such as:
- Medical bills, medication expenses, and fees for physical therapy and/or chiropractors
- Gas money spent traveling to and from the doctor, physical therapist, hospital, or other related appointments
- Property damage to your vehicle and belongings in the vehicle at the time of the accident, including your clothing
- Rental car fees while your car is in the shop after the accident
- Lost wages from time spent away from work in recovery
- Childcare expenses incurred as a result of the accident
In wrongful death cases, you may also seek funeral expenses and loss of future income as part of your special damages.
Make sure to keep every bill you receive in a safe place. The more documentation you have of your special damages, the easier it will be to win a higher settlement.
Since simple reimbursement of money spent recovering from a car accident is not enough to put a victim in the same place they were in before the accident, Arizona allows for general damages in personal injury cases. These are often known as compensation for pain and suffering.
General damages can also be sought for grief, or loss of consortium, in wrongful death cases.
We can never put a price tag on the mental anguish someone suffers as a result of an accident or the loss of a family member. Receiving general damages can go a long way to making a family whole again.
Punitive damages are meant to punish the defendant. They are only awarded to a plaintiff in an accident claim in rare cases. To win them, the plaintiff has to show that the defendant had an “evil mind.” This occurs when:
- The defendant intended to injure the plaintiff
- The defendant acted in a way that he knew would create a substantial risk of harm to the plaintiff
A court can infer that the defendant had an evil mind if the defendant acted so outrageously that he consciously disregarded the substantial risk of harm his actions could have on others.
Most personal injury cases don’t meet this high threshold. It’s difficult to infer conscious disregard of substantial harm in minor fender benders. However, the potential risk to other drivers on the road is blatantly obvious in DUI cases, meaning that judges and juries may be more likely to award punitive damages in this case.
Third Party Damages
Finally, under Arizona’s Dram Shop laws, restaurants, bars, or individual social hosts can be held liable for accidents caused by individuals they served alcohol to, if the individual was already under the influence of alcohol.
For example, if Monica’s Bar keeps serving Joey shots of whiskey, even after he’s visibly drunk, and Joey then attempts to drive home and hits Rachel’s car, Rachel can sue both Joey and Monica’s Bar for her injuries. If Rachel is killed, her family can sue both Joey and Monica’s bar for her wrongful death.
Seeking damages from commercial establishments can be a useful way of recovering damages in drunk driving car accidents. Restaurants and bars are typically required to carry a certain amount of liquor liability insurance. These policies may have higher limits, meaning that you may be able to recover more from a restaurant’s insurance company than from the drunk driver’s insurance company.
The personal injury attorneys at Petersen Johnson have spent more than 20 years helping our clients recover financially from devastating car accidents. Our law firm understands the difficulties families face while recovering and we will work with you to ensure you receive the maximum settlement possible.
This article does not provide legal advice. If you or a loved one was in a car accident with a drunk driver, contact our experienced personal injury attorneys today to discuss your options to receive the compensation you deserve.