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Do punitive damages apply in a drunk driving case?

If you were injured in a car crash due to a drunk driver, you may be looking at significant financial issues such as a stack of medical bills and lost wages. You are entitled to appropriate financial compensation from the guilty party’s insurance company.

However, compensation matters involve more than negotiation with insurance company lawyers in the state of Ohio. The personal injury attorney you engage can explore the prospect of punitive damages.

Alcohol-related accidents on the rise

According to data available from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there was an alcohol-related traffic fatality on the average of every 51 minutes in the U.S. in 2012, which represented an increase of 4.6 percent over 2011. The following year, in the state of Ohio alone, there were 7,037 alcohol-related injuries, and out of these, 300 deaths.

Penalties for OVI

In the Buckeye State, drivers charged with operating a vehicle under the influence, or OVI, face serious penalties:

  • Immediate license suspension
  • Fines from $375 to $10,500
  • Possible jail time from three days to life, depending on the circumstances

If these impaired drivers have been responsible for an accident that caused harm to someone else, they can also expect to face punitive damages.

Taking big steps

In the ongoing effort to keep drunk drivers off the road and bring down the number of repeat offenders, laws have become increasingly severe in many states, including Ohio. The ignition interlock program has helped in this effort: While installation of the device may or may not come with a first offense, it is mandatory for a second or subsequent OVI conviction.

As to punitive damages, the purpose is not so much to compensate an injured car crash victim as it is to punish the drunk driver who caused the accident because the car crash should not have happened; it was preventable. However, the accident victim stands to benefit from petitioning the court for punitive damages.

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