Phoenix, AZ – Arizona has some of the strictest DUI laws in the country, yet the number of drunk driving accidents remains quite high. One recent study found that 63% of people will be involved in some type of drunk driving accident over the course of their life. When that happens, the victims and their families will naturally want the drunk driver to be punished. The punishment of a drunk driver in Arizona has two sides:

  • Criminal charges: If someone is hurt in the accident, the diver may be charged with DUI with injury, which is a felony. If the accident results in death, the driver may be charged with vehicular manslaughter.
  • Civil chargers: The victim or the surviving family may have to file a claim or civil lawsuit to recover damages. For a minor accident, the claim can probably be settled with the insurance company. For a serious accident, however, you will have to sue and seek punitive damages as well. You will need good Phoenix DUI accident lawyers to represent you as punitive damages are not automatically awarded in an accident case.

How can I get punitive damages in a drunk driving case in Arizona?

Two aspects determine the likelihood of you getting punitive damages in a drunk driving accident – the severity of your injuries and the drunk driver’s conduct.

When you’re injured in an accident you are entitled to compensatory damages, which can be economic and non-economic. These are meant to cover your financial losses and compensate you for your pain and suffering. It’s all about you and what you’ve been through.

Punitive damages, on the other hand, are meant to punish the drunk driver. Yet, to get punitive damages your Arizona DUI accident lawyers will have to convince the court that the driver acted with an evil mind.

There are basically two types of situations in which you can recover punitive damages in an Arizona court:

  • The party at fault displayed ill will and you were injured as a result of their intentional actions
  • The party at fault knew their actions were unsafe and there was a high risk someone will get hurt, but acted anyway.

In a DUI civil case, your lawyers will go for the second. Every adult knows or should know that driving while intoxicated is very risky and the chances of causing an accident are very high.

Does the drunk driver’s BAC matter in a DUI accident?

In Arizona, it matters a lot. According to the law, it is illegal to drive with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 or higher (or .04 for commercial drivers). However, Arizona laws are very harsh if a driver has a high BAC, no matter if they cause an accident or not.

A driver with a BAC of .15 can be charged with Extreme DUI, while for a BAC of .20 or higher the offense is considered Super Extreme DUI.

As far as your civil case is concerned the higher the driver’s BAC is, the higher the chances of you being awarded punitive damages. If the driver also had prior DUI offenses on their record this establishes a pattern of complete disregard for the rights and safety of other road users.

Your Arizona accident lawyers may also present in court evidence showing the driver’s behavior before the crash. If they got drunk in a bar, your lawyers will try to locate witnesses describing the driver partying all night and then staggering outside to get into their car. If they manage to retrieve the guy’s tab, this can show the court how many drinks they had before the accident.

Keep in mind that in Arizona you can use the Dram Shop law to sue the establishment where the driver got drunk as it is illegal to serve alcohol to a person who is visibly intoxicated. This may be very useful if the driver doesn’t have the financial means to cover your damages.

In Arizona, there is no cap on punitive damages so the amount you get depends on the skills of your lawyers.

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