Each year, more than 10,000 people lose their lives in drunk driving accidents and thousands of others suffer severe or debilitating injuries, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Despite all the efforts that are made to stop drivers from getting behind the wheel of their vehicles intoxicated, many individuals make the mistake and do so anyway. When an impaired driver chooses to operate their vehicle aware of how dangerous it is, they can be held liable in a number of different ways if they cause an accident in Mississippi.
Criminal and Civil Penalties for Driving Impaired in Mississippi
In the state of Mississippi, it is illegal for a driver to operate their vehicle while impaired or with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level of 0.08% or higher. If a driver is caught violating the law and causes an accident because of it, he/she is not only looking at facing multiple penalties such as jail time and fines, but they also put themselves at risk of a civil lawsuit. When a person suffers injuries in an accident with a drunk driver, they may decide to file a personal injury lawsuit against him/her not only to recognize them for the poor choices they made, but they may also use it to recover compensation for their injuries and losses.
When a victim of a drunk driving accident files a personal injury lawsuit against a negligent driver, he/she may ask to be awarded for their medical expenses, pain and suffering, mental anguish, etc. Given the circumstances surrounding the accident, they may also be entitled to recover punitive damages.
What are punitive damages?
Punitive damages are generally awarded when a victim can prove by “clear and convincing evidence that the defendant against whom punitive damages are sought acted with actual malice, gross negligence which evidences a willful, wanton or reckless disregard for the safety of others” [Source: Miss. Code Ann. §11-1-65]. Punitive damages, when awarded, aim to provide a victim with financial relief and are also serve as a form of punishment to the individual who was responsible for the accident. Before punitive damages can be awarded, the court will first determine if compensatory damages (e.g. medical bills, lost wages, etc.) should be awarded and in what amount.
In the event compensatory damages are awarded, the jury may then determine if punitive damages should be awarded to the victim along with how much they should receive. When determining the amount a victim should be awarded in punitive damages, the jury will take into account the following factors:
- The defendant’s (i.e. the at-fault party) financial situation and net worth.
- The “nature and reprehensibility of the defendant’s wrongdoing.”
- The relationship of the defendant to the plaintiff, if any.
- The defendant’s awareness of the amount of harm they caused.
Contact Ballard Law, PLLC to Learn More About Recovering Punitive Damages
If an individual was involved in an accident with an impaired driver in Jackson, MS and they would like to find out what damages, if any, they are entitled to collect, they can contact Ballard Law, PLLC to discuss this with a Jackson, MS drunk driving accident lawyer. The MS drunk driving accident attorneys at Ballard Law, PLLC can help a victim understand when they hold the right to file a civil action against an impaired driver and how to do this.
Ballard Law, PLLC can be reached at:
108 S. President Street
Jackson, MS 39201