Continued from: 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.
I'm joined by Philip Milam, the managing attorney for our personal injury department.
Gary: Let me put the question from Mason back on our screen for 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
Philip, in our last segment you told our viewers that you would go after two things from the Defendant - Compensation and Punishment.
Philip: That's right, Gary. By compensation, we would pursue damages against the defendant to compensate Mason's wife and his daughter for their injuries, medical bills, lost wages, and their pain and suffering
And the punishment I'm talking about is in the civil arena.
The district attorney will work on the criminal charges against the defendant for operating their vehicle while under the influence.
We will go after the Defendant driver for punitive damages.
Gary: Philip, please tell us about 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.
Gary: Let's talk about the extensive investigation that we do on these claims involving drunk drivers.
First of all, we investigate all potential defendants and we ask the following questions:
* Was the drunk driver operating their own vehicle or driving a vehicle owned by another person?
* Did the person that loaned the vehicle know or should they have known that the driver was impaired by alcohol when they allowed them to use it?
* Was the drunk driver known to be habitually reckless and dangerous due to past DUI charges or dangerous driving behaviors?
* Was the drunk driver on the job when the collision occurred?
Gary: Another thing that we investigate is when, where and how the person consumed the alcohol.
Philip: That's right - we want to investigate other potential negligent parties.
Most states have "Dram Shop Laws" - these laws put potential liability upon an establishment like a bar, restaurant, or pub if they serve alcohol to someone who is underage or visibly intoxicated and that person causes a wreck after leaving that business.
Gary: The law even puts a responsibility on private citizens, doesn't it?
Philip: That's correct. This is known as "social host" liability. A social host is someone that provides or allows alcohol to be consumed in their home or at a party they are hosting.
It is the host's responsibility to make sure that none of their impaired guests attempt to drive when leaving the party.
Gary: And one other thing we do is to investigate all potential insurance coverages.
Philip: Definitely. Not only do we look for all policies that afford liability coverage to the at fault driver, we look at any other policies that the injured victim might have available to them.
Gary: Philip, you and I have been very active over the years working with Mothers Against Drunk Driving - MADD, as we served on their advisory board here in Georgia.
We want to keep these drunk drivers off of the roads!
Philip: You are right. We want to prevent these wrecks from ever happening.
And let me stress to everyone - please plan ahead if you are going out to celebrate.
Have a designated driver that doesn't drink to chauffeur you.
Gary: Thanks Philip.
If you or someone you love has been injured by a drunk driver, please give us a call.