Another holiday season is upon us which means end of the year holiday parties. Unfortunately, each holiday season, we see an uptick in automobile accidents that are caused by drunk or impaired drivers. Most companies are becoming more proactive to prevent their employees from drinking and driving by providing transportation, covering ride share expenses for Ubers and Lyfts, or adopting zero tolerance policies for those leaving their holiday parties. A drunk or impaired driver can cause serious injury or death to his or herself and to others.
What type of compensation is available to a victim of a drunk driver?
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. That is, you are entitled to seek compensation for your medical bills and loss wages, your pain and suffering, any future economic loss, disability compensation, and more. 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.
Are punitive damages covered under an insurance policy?
Put simply, it depends. There are some insurance policies that cover punitive damages under their policies, while others do not. An experienced attorney will need to analyze the text of the insurance policy of the impaired driver.
Can an employer or a bar or restaurant be liable for someone who injures a third party while intoxicated following a holiday party?
Typically, your 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. Further, it is possible that an insurance policy could exclude punitive damages. 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.
If the intoxicated driver was leaving a company holiday party, and it may be possible that the company can also be held liable for the actions of its employee. Proving this claim will turn upon a detailed investigation into the facts and circumstances surrounding the specific holiday party and company.
Lastly, there are some jurisdictions in Louisiana that hold that an employer is liable for their employees' actions, even with respect to drunk drivers. Depending on where the accident happened, where the employer is located, where the employee was going or coming from, if they were getting paid, if they were on the clock, and other facts, you may be able to argue that the company is liable for punitive damages as well.
What do I do if I was injured by a drunk driver during the holidays?
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 lawyer or a New Orleans personal injury lawyer as soon as possible. Give us a call for a free consultation on how we can assist you with this claim.
This is provided for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice.