Injured by a Drunk Driver?
Louisiana law comes down hard on drunk drivers and rightly so.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, 3,046 people were killed in car accidents involving a drunk driver in Louisiana between 2003 – 2012. Louisiana ranks infamously well above the national average for the percentage of adults who report driving after drinking too much. In the United States, 1.9 percent report driving after drinking too much. In Louisiana, it is a stunning 2.5 percent.
It is a serious problem and one that the Louisiana Legislature and our State Police know too well. One way they try to deter drunk driving on Louisiana highways is by enacting harsh penalties for those caught driving while intoxicated and even harsher sanctions when someone is injured in a crash caused by a drunk driver.
Louisiana law generally does not impose punitive damages except where the legislature specifically authorizes it by statute. Driving under the influence of alcohol or other substance is considered such an affront to public policy, the Louisiana Legislature sets forth additional punitive damages for people who sustained injury or damages because of a vehicle accident involving a drunk driver.
Louisiana Civil Code Article 2315.4 provides for additional damages when a defendant is intoxicated:
In addition to general and special damages may be awarded upon proof that the injuries on which the action is based were caused by a wanton or reckless disregard for the rights and safety of others by a defendant whose intoxication while operating a motor vehicle was a cause-in-fact of the resulting injuries.
Punitive damages may be recovered when the defendant was operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated and that condition caused injuries to the plaintiff. The court or jury must also make the further finding that the defendant’s conduct was wanton or reckless.
In order to prevail, the plaintiff in such cases must prove that the driver was operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated and the intoxication caused injuries to the plaintiff. The court must make the further finding that the defendant’s conduct was wanton or reckless.
In a ranking of the top 10 states for fatal DWIs, Louisiana ranks #9 with 4.80 DUI deaths per 100,000 residents. Add the opioid addiction plaguing the country right now, it is a grim situation. It’s not just driving under the influence of alcohol, it is also DUID – driving under the influence of drugs. The commission is considering instituting a separate charge and developing marijuana breathalyzers similar to those used for alcohol detection. Freeman insists that a cultural shift is necessary, “It’s teaching as young as you can, in appropriate ways, that impairment is impairment, regardless of source,” she was quoted as saying.
In Louisiana, many legal principles have different names due to our French civil code tradition. Punitive damages are also referred to as exemplary damages. “Punitive emphasizes the goal of punishment. Exemplary emphasizes the goal of making an example of the wrongdoer for purposes of education and deterrence.” James E. Bolin, Jr, Enter Exemplary Damages, 32 La. B. J. 216, 217 (1984).
Let’s hope we can stem the tide of drunk and impaired driving in our state, to educate and to deter, in an effort to reduce the number of car accidents with injuries on Acadiana highways.
At Joseph Joy & Associates, we have recovered millions of dollars in damages for clients who have been seriously injured due to the negligence of someone else. If you have the unfortunate experience of being seriously injured in an accident involving a car, truck or big rig, give us a call: 337-232-8123 or visit us at 900 S. College Rd., Ste. 204, Lafayette, LA.