Drunk driving remains a serious public safety problem in California. According to the most recent data from Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), more than 1,000 people were killed in DUI crashes in the state in 2017. Many thousands more innocent victims suffered severe, even life-changing injuries in wholly avoidable DUI accidents. When a drunk driver hits you, it is a trying experience, especially if there are serious injuries.
As you recover from injuries, it is natural to think about recovering compensation from the drunk driver who hit you. You have to consider medical bills, rehabilitation costs, missed work, and more.
This raises an important question: How much can you expect to recover and what is the average drunk driving accident settlement in California?
The truth is, each drunk driving accident claim is different.
In that sense, there is no true ‘average’ drunk driving accident settlement amount. Each case is fact specific. However you deserve the maximum available compensation, to pay for your medical bills, cover for your lost of earnings, and the pains you have suffered. At The Beliz Law Firm, our top-rated Long Beach, CA drunk driving accident lawyer is standing by, ready to fight for your rights.
Car accident lawyer Michael Beliz can help you understand what your case is worth. Consultations are always free – reach out today.
Average Settlement for a Drunk Driving Accident in California
After an injury in a car accident, the driver at fault for the accident may be liable for your injuries. In some cases, the person that caused the accident was driving under the influence. If that happens to you, there is a good chance the other driver owes you compensation.
An accident involving a drunk driver can often yield a higher settlement or judgment than a case in which the driver at fault was not impaired. However, the value of any personal injury or wrongful death claim depends on the case.
Is There a Normal Drunk Driving Personal Injury Settlement?
There is no “normal” settlement for car accident injuries caused by a drunk driver. In California, some personal injury awards are more than a million dollars. Other cases settle for under $10,000. The compensation owed in your personal injury case depends on many factors.
They include the severity and permanence of your injuries, the economic loss you suffered, and the degree of comparative fault. The defendant’s insurance coverage and ability to pay will also play a large role in the value of a settlement.
How Do We Calculate Damages in Drunk Driving Accident Cases
There are two kinds of damages in personal injury cases: compensatory damages and punitive damages.
Compensatory damages compensate an injured person for his loss. We categorize these into economic (special) and non-economic (general) damages.
- Special damages are those that have a specific dollar amount. These include current and future medical bills and expenses, lost wages or earning capacity, property damages, and anything else that cost the injured person money.
- General damages do not have a tangible economic cost but still deserve compensation. Non-economic damages compensate for the plaintiff’s pain and suffering, mental anguish, and loss of enjoyment of life. There is no formula to use to calculate the amount of general damages. Your injuries and your story determine damages.
Punitive damages (also called exemplary damages) punish the defendant for extreme neglect or bad behavior. To award punitive damages, California law requires the defendant must have “willfully and deliberately failed” to avoid the known consequences of his negligence. Not every drunk driving personal injury case will include punitive damages. In some cases, however, juries have awarded millions of dollars in punitive damages to the families of those killed by an intoxicated driver.
California DUI Accidents: How to Maximize Your Compensation
Whether you are seeking compensation for direct economic losses — such as medical bills, lost wages, etc — or you are seeking compensation for non-economic damages — such as pain and suffering, disfigurement, or emotional distress — it is crucial that your damages are properly documented and effectively presented.
Ultimately, compensatory damages must be tied to your losses. To obtain compensation through a settlement or personal injury verdict, your claim should be carefully documented with strong supporting evidence either through receipts, bills, photos, etc. Indeed, the key to obtaining successful results in the personal injury settlement process often lies in the evidence.
Notably, the large insurance companies that typically defend DUI accident claims have a well-established reputation for being highly aggressive. It is rare that these insurers will lead with their best and final settlement offer at the beginning of the negotiation process. Their fundamental goal is to settle drunk driving accident claims for the lowest amount possible and as quickly as possible.
Insurers train their representatives to look for any information that they can use against plaintiffs in order to reduce a personal injury settlement. For this and other reasons, it is highly recommended that you deal with the insurance company through your attorney. Your attorney will make sure that your interests are protected.
When Can You Recover Punitive Damages in a California DUI Accident Case?
Punitive damages will only be awarded in cases where there was gross negligence or extraordinarily reckless misconduct by the defendant. In DUI accident cases, California courts are instructed to look to the state’s statutes on punitive/exemplary damages (Civil Code § 3294).
What is notable is that California requires plaintiffs to present ‘clear and compelling’ evidence in seeking punitive damages. This is a significantly higher legal threshold than the ‘preponderance of evidence’ standard that is used for compensatory damages.
In order to recover punitive damages for a drunk driving accident, you must be able to clearly demonstrate that the defendant (the intoxicated driver) was grossly negligent or willfully reckless. The worse the behavior of the defendant, the more likely punitive damages are to be awarded. An example of willfully reckless behavior is a prior DUI conviction.
If you are considering seeking punitive damages in your case, it is imperative that you seek guidance from an experienced Long Beach drunk driving accident lawyer who can help you prepare the strongest possible legal claim.
Need Help Receiving a DUI Accident Settlement? Contact The Beliz Law Firm
If you or a loved one is in a car accident, and you suspect the driver was under the influence of alcohol or drugs, speak with an attorney right away. A personal injury lawyer will fight to ensure you receive the compensation you deserve. Contact the dedicated personal injury attorneys at Beliz Law Firm in Long Beach California to schedule a free, no-obligation case review. Call us anytime at 714-401-1071.