Punitive damages against drunk drivers
Since my days as a young prosecutor, I have observed the mayhem wrought by drunk drivers. Therefore, I am pleased to sponsor the updated web site for Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) Georgia chapter.
When drunk drivers cause wrecks, Georgia jurors are often ready to send a message that such conduct is unacceptable, even if the actual injury is relatively small. Such verdicts are routinely affirmed by our appellate courts. In Craig v. Holsey, 264 Ga. App. 344 (2004), the jury returned a verdict of $8,801.40 in actual damages and $200,000.00 in punitive damages. On appeal, the large punitive damages award was upheld as being not grossly excessive. Id. at 350. In another case, based upon medical bills of only $643.00, the jury returned a verdict for actual damages of $3,000.00 and for punitive damages in the amount of $300,000.00. Langlois v. Wolford, 246 Ga. App. 209 (2000).
Generally, if a drunk driver who causes a wreck has a record of other DUI incidents, there is a high potential for a punitive verdict. If a thorough examination of his life reveals no other incidents, a jury is somewhat less likely to return a high punitive verdict. Whenever there is sufficient insurance coverage or recoverable assets to make a large verdict collectable, it is worthwhile to thoroughly investigate the drunk driver’s prior and subsequent record. At times we have checked records in every locality where a drunk driver has lived, attended college, worked or vacationed to determine whether there were DUI charges even if they were dismissed or plead down to a lesser charge.
The Shigley Law Firm represents plaintiffs in wrongful death and catastrophic injury cases statewide in Georgia, and in other states subject to the multijurisdictional practice and pro hac vice rules in each state. Ken Shigley was designated as a “SuperLawyer” in Atlanta Magazine and one of the “Legal Elite” in Georgia Trend Magazine. He is a Certified Civil Trial Advocate of the National Board of Trial Advocacy, Chair of the Southeastern Motor Carrier Liability Institute and former chair of the Georgia Insurance Law Institute. He particularly focuses on cases arising from truck wrecks and accidents (tractor trailers truck wrecks, semi truck wrecks,18 wheeler truck wrecks, big rig truck wrecks, log truck wrecks, dump truck wrecks).