Claiming Punitive Damages from a Drunk Driving Accident

Drunk driving is a very serious criminal offense. Intoxicated drivers aren't only risking their own lives, but they're endangering others too.  


RELATED: Making a Claim Against a Driver Accused of Intoxication Manslaughter

Although an intoxicated motorist likely faces criminal charges because of their antisocial misconduct, they can also be punished under civil law. Although a civil claim for compensation typically involves reimbursing the accident victim for any economic and intangible damage caused by the drunk driver’s actions, an experienced Fort Worth personal injury lawyer might also decide that it's appropriate to pursue punitive damages against a drunk driver. Although any punitive damages awarded will be paid to the accident victim, their purpose is not to compensate the accident victim, but rather to punish the drunk driver for their extremely negligent behavior.

RELATED: Financial Damages Owed to Personal Injury Victims.

When your case goes to trial, your lawyer will attempt to establish that punitive damages are appropriate by asking the jury “Was such negligence of the at-fault driver gross negligence?”
Gross negligence is defined by Texas state legislature as “more than momentary thoughtlessness, inadvertence, or error of judgment. It means such an entire want of care as to establish that the act or omission in question was the result of actual conscious indifference to the rights, welfare, or safety of the persons affected by it.” Since a drunk driver is fully aware that attempting to drive while intoxicated causes a danger to other when they decide to do it, it is certainly meets this description of grossly negligent behavior.

RELATED: How Much Compensation Am I Entitled To?

Assuming that the jury agrees, your attorney will then ask them to unanimously agree on the amount of exemplary damages should be awarded. According to Texas law, exemplary damages means any damages awarded as a penalty or by way of punishment but not for compensatory purposes. Exemplary damages includes punitive damages.
Factors to consider in awarding exemplary damages, if any, are:

a.   The nature of the wrong

b.   The character of the conduct involved

c.    The degree of culpability of the wrongdoer

d.   The extent to which such conduct offends a public sense of justice and propriety

e.   The net worth of the at-fault driver.

How To Hire the Best Fort Worth Injury Lawyer

There is no magic formula for hiring the best Dallas-Fort Worth personal injury lawyer for your claim, but any injured party owes it to themselves to do some research before hiring an attorney to help them pursue compensation for their car wreck or other accident. The first advice is not to hire a lawyer like you pick your dry cleaners. In other words, don't simply settle for whatever is closest to you. While that may be convenient for the initial consultation, it does not necessarily mean that the lawyer is sufficiently qualified or experienced to handle your injury claim and help you recover the maximum compensation possible from the liable insurance company. It is important that the injury attorney you hire has a proven track record of winning their clients the full and fair compensation they are entitled to under Texas law.

We believe the best way to find the right lawyer for your case is by using a checklist of the most important qualities you need in an injury attorney:

1. Experience

It’s important that the lawyer you hire is experienced in cases that deal with the specific accident type that caused your injury. You need to make sure that they understand their way around the claims and litigation process and that they are knowledgeable on how the law applies to your specific situation. You can find this information by reading about the attorney on their web site or by interviewing them in person.

2. Qualifications

The surest sign that a Texas serious injury or wrongful death lawyer is qualified is to find out whether or not they are Board Certified in Injury Trial Law. We believe it is very important that the injured party be represented by somebody who is Board Certified. This means that that attorney has been practicing long enough, has the requisite trial experience, has passed a rigorous test put on by the state and is found to be qualified by their peers. It is not easy to become Board Certified, in fact only 3 percent of the practicing attorneys in Texas are Board Certified Trial Lawyers. It costs no more to hire a Board Certified injury attorney than it does a non-board certified attorney, so you owe it to yourself to make sure you hire the best lawyer possible.

3. Reputation

In order to learn what kind of reputation a lawyer has, you might have to look beyond the testimonials posted on their website. Although it is against the law to fake or forge these testimonials (so it must be presumed that if they are contained on the site then they are indeed accurate), they will inevitably all be positive reviews. Be sure to also look at other online reviews which they have no editorial control over, such as on Google, Yahoo and Avvo. Another good indicator is the honors and awards received by the attorney or the law firm in general. You can also ask an attorney to speak with one of his former clients, even though that request is unusual.

4. Trial Experience

Most auto wreck cases don’t end up going to trial. In fact, it is almost universal that when the Anderson Law Firm is hired, their clients are hoping for a resolution and not have to sit through and long and stressful trial. However, sometimes it is necessary in order to recover just damages. Therefore, every case that is signed up by a lawyer must be viewed at as whether the case will succeed at trial. Every step in the process must be geared towards winning the case at trial – just in case the matter does not settle and must proceed to a trial in front of a jury. To hire a lawyer who has never tried a case or is reluctant to try a case is a mistake. The insurance company will be aware of this and will adjust their strategy accordingly. They will offer an insufficient settlement to try and force the case to go to trial, because they know they will have a much better chance at winning – meaning you will lose. Be sure that you select an attorney who has trial experience and is not scared to go to trial. 
If you follow this basic advice, you will end up with an attorney who is best suited for you and your case. Do not be afraid to interview the attorney and ask questions. They should be personable and you should feel comfortable with the answers the attorney gives you. Bare in mind, too, that you probably won’t deal with the attorney on every single occasion; you will be dealing with his or her staff a lot of the time. However, in the times that you do deal with the attorney, you must be confident that you have hired the best Fort Worth injury attorney for your case.

The Anderson Law Firm offers free consultations for all injured parties. Contact us today by calling toll free at 800-354-6275 or locally at 817-294-1900, or contact us online and we will call you back as soon as possible.

Don't Hire Any Drunk Driving Accident Attorney

There are many attorneys that advertise their services with the goal of charging drunk driving victims an excessive amount of fees. Those attorneys may not be representing their clients only because they paid their dues. Here is where the attorneys at the Anderson Law Firm are different: we look out for our clients, walk with them step-by-step in the legal process, and focus our efforts in placing our clients in the best position possible. Another important reason our clients contact us is because our services are "no win, no fee". This means that you don't pay a dime until we win your case. This makes us even more comitted in fighting for our clients because we want them to be completely satisfied with our services.


If you or a loved one has been involved in a drunk driving accident, contact us today at 817-717-4731 to schedule a no-obligation, free consultation where we can discuss your case. The attorneys at the Anderson Law Firm are here to help you!

Mark A. Anderson
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Board Certified Personal Injury Lawyer in Fort Worth, Texas