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Do I Need a Lawyer - Car Wreck Punitive Damages (part 1)


This is an excerpt from one of the recent episodes of 'Do I Need a Lawyer?' hosted by: Gary Martin Hays.

Now let's go to a question from one of our viewers:

Gary - Let me tell you about something that happened to my wife last week. And I have to admit, I am really mad about this.

My wife had just picked up our oldest daughter from a friend's home where they were working on a project for school. They were at the stop sign about to exit the subdivision when a driver lost control of his car when he tried to turn into the subdivision. He apparently was going too fast when he realized he was about to miss his turn.

He crashed into the driver's side of our mini-van. My wife's left arm is broken, and she and my daughter were cut up from the flying glass.

What angers me is the driver that hit my wife and daughter was drunk. The officer told us this was that man's second DUI in the last 3 years.

How can we teach this man a lesson - that you don't drink and drive? He could have killed my wife and daughter? And do we need a lawyer?

-Mason in Forest Park

Mason, thanks for the question. I am very sorry your wife and daughter were injured.
Please know they are in our thoughts and prayers and we certainly wish them all the best as they recover from their injuries.
Let me bring in Philip Milam, the managing attorney for our personal injury department, to discuss the legal aspects of your case.

Philip, thanks for being here.

Philip: Gary, thanks for having me.
I completely understand why Mason is angry.
It angers me whenever a person has too much to drink and then drive on our highways.
Not only are they putting their life at risk, but they are also putting everyone else that shares the road with them in harm's way.

Gary: Philip, you are right!

And to illustrate this point even more, let may share some facts about drunk driving.
I co-authored a chapter about this very subject in the best-selling book "Consumer's Advocate" entitled "The Mourning After: Helping Families Cope After A Drunk Driving Wreck."

12 oz. of beer = 5 oz. of wine = 1.5 oz. of liquor
-All these drinks contain the same amount of alcohol

A driver's impairment is not determined by the type of drink, but rather by the amount of alcohol ingested over a specific time period.

Only time can make a person sober. Drinking Coffee, exercising, or taking a cold shower will not help.
The average person metabolizes alcohol at the rate of about one drink per hour.

Philip: Gary, let me give you and our viewers some more sobering statistics:

Every day in America, on average, 28 people die as a result of drunk driving crashes.

Almost every 90 seconds, a drunk driver injures a victim in a car crash.

An average of one out of very 3 people will be involved in a drunk driving collision in their lifetime.

Gary: That is hard to imagine. 1 in 3 will be involved in a drunk driving crash in their lifetime.
Well let's answer Mason's question.

Does he need a lawyer and how would you help him?

Philip: Yes, I highly recommend him getting a lawyer right away.
And the two words I'd tell him we would go after - Compensation and Punishment.

Gary: Explain what you mean by compensation and punishment.

Philip: By compensation, we would pursue damages against the defendant to compensate Mason's wife and his daughter for the following:

* Their injuries
* Their medical expenses
* Prescription charges
* Any lost wages
* And money for their pain and suffering and emotional suffering.

Gary: Now let's talk about punishment.

Philip: Ok, but let's break this up into two areas - criminal and civil.
The district attorney or the solicitor will be pursuing the criminal charges against the defendant for driving under the influence of alcohol.
Certainly, we will cooperate with them in the investigation and assist in any way we can.
The punishment I'm talking about is in the civil arena.
We will go after the Defendant driver for punitive damages.

Gary: And what are "punitive damages"?

Philip: These are damages the law allows us to pursue to PUNISH a defendant for their bad conduct, and to DETER the defendant from repeating the bad conduct.

Because the defendant caused the wreck while driving under the influence of alcohol, Georgia law allows us to seek punitive damages.

If you or someone you love has been injured by a drunk driver, please give us a call right away to discuss your potential case.

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