Any time a driver acts negligently and causes a car accident, that driver can be held financially responsible for his actions. If it can be proven the motorist was speeding, texting while driving, or knowingly disregarding traffic laws, for example, he would be determined to be at fault for the crash and therefore, his insurance company would have to pay compensation to any injured victims.
Proving fault can be difficult in some cases, as both drivers will likely claim the other caused the crash. However, one factor that makes fault clear is intoxication. If one driver tests positive for alcohol or drug use, he will not only owe the other driver damages, but also face criminal charges.
Compensatory Damages For Drunk Driving Accident Victims
As in any personal injury claim, victims of a drunk driving crash are owed compensatory damages. This award is intended to compensate you for the economic and non-economic losses you suffered. Economic losses are those involving actual monetary expenses, while non-economic losses don’t come with a price tag.
Examples of possible compensatory damages include the following:
- Medical bills, including future costs
- Property damage
- Lost wages
- Loss of future earnings
- Household expenses
- Transportation costs
- Pain and suffering
Calculating these costs—especially estimating future earnings and quantifying pain and suffering—can be difficult. You can be sure the insurer for the drunk driver won't be generous in his offer. That's why it's important to have an attorney representing you in the negotiation for compensation.
Wrongful Death Damages Following A Drunk Driving Accident
If a loved one is killed by a drunk driver, as a surviving family member, you have the right to sue the driver for wrongful death damages. Again, unlike other vehicular wrongful death claims, a claim involving a drunk driver will present a strong case for damages. Because the drunk driver committed a crime when he chose to drive while intoxicated, his actions were clearly “wrongful” and therefore survivors are entitled to damages.
A surviving spouse, child, or parent—depending on the circumstances—is usually eligible to sue a drunk driver for wrongful death damages, which could include the following:
- Medical expenses incurred between the accident and time of death
- Pain and suffering experienced by the deceased before death
- Funeral expenses
- Loss of income and future wages
- Loss of services, consortium, companionship, comfort, instruction, guidance, counsel, training, and support the deceased person provided to family members
While it may feel uncomfortable suing for financial gain following the death of a loved one, it's important to realize the drunk driver must be held accountable for his actions, and that you are legally entitled to compensation for your losses.
Punitive Damages Following A Drunk Driving Accident
When a judge determines that a person has acted in a particularly egregious manner by causing an accident, the judge can also order him to pay punitive damages. Drunk driving cases often fall into this category. Unlike compensatory damages, punitive damages aren't intended to compensate the victim but to punish the drunk driver. Only a judge can make this decision, and a jury determines the amount of the damages. Depending on the drunk driver’s assets, these awards can be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
In Missouri, the victim receives half of the total amount of punitive damages, while the state retains the other half.
Missouri Crime Victims’ Compensation Fund
In Missouri, another possible source of compensation is the Crime Victims’ Compensation Fund. Managed by the Missouri Department of Public Safety, this fund is intended to help victims of violent crime—including drunk driving crashes—when other sources of compensation are unavailable or insufficient.
For example, if the drunk driver doesn't have adequate auto insurance and the victim doesn't have adequate health insurance, the fund can help with medical expenses. The maximum benefit through this program is $25,000, but certain requirements must be met. The victim’s attorney will be able to help determine his eligibility for this program.
Have You Been Injured By A Drunk Driver?
If you've been injured by a drunk driver you need to speak with an experienced drunk driving victim attorney as soon as possible. Please contact us online or call our Kansas City office directly at 816.471.5111 to schedule your free consultation.