According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there is a fatality in an alcohol-related accident every forty-eight minutes in the United States. Further, Louisiana ranks well-above the national average for alcohol-impaired driving fatalities. Drunk driving is a serious problem and for that reason, the Louisiana legislature allows punitive damages in cases involving drunk driving. What Are Punitive Damages and How Do I Obtain Them? The Louisiana Civil Code provides that in addition to general and special damages, exemplary damages may be awarded upon proof that the injuries on which the action is based were caused by a defendant who was operating a vehicle while intoxicated. Recovery of punitive damages requires proof of the following:
  1. The at-fault driver was intoxicated to the degree that he lost his normal control of his mental and physical faculties.
  2. His intoxication was the cause-in-fact of your injuries.
  3. Your injuries were caused by his wanton or reckless disregard for the rights and safety of others.
In other words, you have to prove that had he not been intoxicated, you would not have been injured. How Are Punitive Damages Calculated? If the plaintiff can meet their burden of proof, the court can consider a monetary award intended to punish the drunk driver as well as compensate his victims.  Louisiana jurisprudence tells us that some factors to be considered in the calculation of punitive damages include the extent of harm to the plaintiff, the wealth or financial situation of the defendant, character of conduct involved, and the extent to which that conduct offense the sense of justice and propriety. The following are a list of recent punitive damages awards across Louisiana: Are Insurance Companies Responsible for Punitive Damages? Like other types of insurance policies, automobile insurance policies contain exclusions which limit the circumstances under which you can recover damages.  Louisiana courts have held in the past that it is not against public policy for auto insurance policies to contain exclusions pertaining to punitive damages.  Therefore, the answer to this question depends on the individual coverage policy.