Now that the Saints season ended with a city-wide Boycott/celebration, that means that Mardi Gras is officially upon us. The Krewe of Chewbacchus is set to roll through the Marigny and Bywater on February 9, and then it's non-stop revelry until March 5. Unfortunately, Mardi Gras does lead to an uptick in impaired driving, which can cause serious personal injury in a car accident. It is important to know your rights if you suspect you have been injured by a drunk or impaired driver in a car accident.
In Louisiana, a car accident victim is typically able to recover only compensatory damages to help put them back in the same position they were in prior to the accident. One exception where you can collect punitive damages is if a person is injured in a car accident caused by a drunk driver. The punitive damages are designed to punish the drunk driver for their reckless behavior and deter similar behavior in the future and can sometimes be amounts ten times the amount of what you could recover in a normal accident.
An injured person can recover punitive damages under Louisiana Civil Code article 2315.4 by proving the following three elements:
1. The at fault driver was intoxicated or impaired
2. The intoxication was the cause in fact of your injuries
3. The injuries were caused by the at fault driver's wanton or reckless disregard for the rights and safety of others.
The other driver need not have received a DWI or DUI and did not need to have been arrested on the scene of the accident in order to make a claim for punitive damages. If you suspect that you have been injured in a car accident and the other driver was impaired, please give us a call so that we may begin an investigation.
Typically, your accident or injury claim is limited to the driver who injured you. At times, especially in Louisiana where the vast majority of drivers carry minimum insurance policies, your ability to recover the full worth of your injuries can be limited or difficult unless you carry significant uninsured or underinsured motorist insurance. Further, it is possible that an insurance policy could exclude punitive damages altogether. We are always analyzing our client's cases to locate additional coverage or insurance that may be available to them.
One possibility in these cases is filing suit against the bar or restaurant where the individual consumed alcohol. In Louisiana, there is an anti-dram shop statute holding that the intoxicated driver, not the business or bar who supplied him alcohol, is liable for these actions. La. Rev. Stat. Ann. §9:2800.1 There are some exceptions, however, to this law. A business may be liable for the driver who (1) served alcohol to a minor; (2) forced consumption of alcohol; (3)misrepresented the alcoholic drink as non-alcoholic.
As you can see, these can be very complicated cases, entailing an analysis of insurance policies, and necessitating filing a lawsuit and conducting extensive depositions and discovery. If you have been injured by a drunk driver, call the police and seek medical attention immediately. If you are involved in a car accident in Metairie or New Orleans, it is important to consult with an experienced Metairie personal injury attorney or a New Orleans personal injury attorney as soon as possible. Give us a call for a free consultation on how we can assist you with this claim.
- Megan C. Kiefer is a partner and trial attorney at Kiefer & Kiefer, who specializes in car accident and personal injury litigation
This is provided for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice.