Compensation Available In a Drunk Driving Accident

Data available from the California Office of Traffic Safety indicates that more than 28,000 individuals sustained alcohol-related vehicle accident injuries during the most recent reporting year in the state. Individuals harmed due to the actions of an impaired driver deserve compensation. Here, we want to examine the types of compensation typically available to drunk driving accident victims if their claim against the other party is successful.

Economic Damages Associated With Drunk Driving Accident Claims

Drunk driving accident victims are typically able to recover compensation for all of their economic damages (sometimes called special damages) associated with the incident if their claim is successful. These are the types of expenses that are relatively calculable after a drunk driving accident occurs. 

Individuals will inevitably receive receipts, bills, invoices, or estimates related to the incident, and the legal team will add these expenses up. Additionally, economic damages will take into account any future expected calculable expenses the individual is likely to endure.

Some of the most common economic damages associated with a drunk driving accident in California include:

  • All emergency medical expenses
  • Physical therapy and rehabilitation
  • Any surgical expenses
  • Prescription and over-the-counter medications
  • Medical devices
  • Lost wages and loss of future earning potential
  • Property damage expenses
  • Rental vehicle expenses
  • Various household out-of-pocket expenses

Non-economic Damages Available After a Drunk Driving Accident Claim

The non-economic damages (often called general damages) associated with a drunk driving accident in California revolve around less calculable expenses that the victim will likely endure. This includes compensation for what we typically consider pain and suffering damages. Usually, there are no physical receipts or bills that can be gathered and added up to calculate non-economic damages. There are other methods to help us adequately calculate a victim’s:

  • Physical pain and suffering damages
  • Emotional and psychological trauma
  • Loss of enjoyment of life damages
  • Any loss of consortium or companionship experienced by a spouse or family members

Often, a multiplier method is used to calculate non-economic losses. Using this method, an attorney will gather up all of the economic damages and then multiply that total by a set number (usually a number ranging from 2 to 5). For example, if an individual experiences $20,000 worth of economic damages, a multiplier of “three” could be used to reach a non-economic damage total of $60,000, bringing the total damage request to $80,000.

Possibility of Punitive Damages

In rare instances, punitive damages are awarded in vehicle accident claims. Punitive damages are a special kind of damage explicitly designed to act as a punishment to the wrongdoer and a deterrent to others who may carry out the same behavior in the future. These types of damages are usually only awarded in situations where the actions of the defendant are considered grossly negligent or intentional.

The Supreme Court in California has ruled that punitive damages cannot be paid through insurance, which means that any punitive damages awarded will come out of the pocket of the at-fault party. A jury will likely consider the negligent driver’s financial status when deciding on the appropriate amount of punitive damages.

If you have any questions about the types of compensation you should receive after sustaining injuries or property damage caused by a drunk driver, we encourage you to reach out to a skilled Santa Ana vehicle accident lawyer who can walk you through this entire process.