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Can punitive damages be awarded after a drunk driving crash?

When there is an auto accident in Colorado with injuries and loss of life, it can spark many challenges with emotional, personal and financial aftereffects that must be addressed. The litany of problems might make it necessary to consider a possible legal claim. While many might be under the impression that the accident itself likely justifies compensation for all that was lost, the law is not that simple. It is important to understand this, especially if the other driver in the collision was drunk.

Receiving punitive damages after an auto accident

The rules for seeking compensation after a car accident in Colorado were once “no-fault” meaning that the circumstances were not actively considered when a claim was filed. In 2003, that changed and fault needs to be shown to receive payment for damages. This should be factored in when seeking punitive damages against a drunk driver. Punitive damages go beyond basic compensation for what was lost and penalize the party that caused the accident. There are limits for it under state law.

There is what is known as “one for one” payment against actual damages. This puts a cap on what a jury can award the victims in collision. The behavior of the responsible party is a fundamental aspect of the case as a driver who was found to be drunk may be deemed at fault. Punitive damages are restricted to the same amount as the damages the victim suffered. For example, medical expenses, wages, property damage or funeral costs will warrant a certain level of payment. The punitive damages can only match that amount.

Receiving punitive damages may require experienced assistance

After car accidents, gathering evidence as to what happened might not be foremost in the minds of those who were injured or had a loved one lose his or her life. However, it is imperative to understand the legal issues with pursuing a case. People simply going about their business can be injured or killed because of a drunk driving accident. Having legal guidance and assistance can be beneficial in moving forward with a filing.

Image of Attorney Chadwick McGrady