Articles Tagged with “drunk driving”

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Beer.jpgMany clients come to us expecting that they will be entitled to punitive damages in their Maryland auto accident. This is especially true in cases where the negligent driver was drunk, or tried to flee the scene of the auto accident, or was driving while texting. Sadly, punitive damages are rarely available, even in these extreme examples.

Punitive damages are “damages on an increased scale, awarded to the plaintiff over and above what will barely compensate him for his property loss, where the wrong done to him was aggravated by circumstances of violence, oppression, malice, fraud, or wanton and wicked conduct on the part of the defendant.” (Black’s Law Dict., 1991 ed., pg. 390). These damages are intended to punish the defendant, to make an example of him.

Every state has its own law on punitive damages. In Maryland, the purpose of punitive damages is to punish the defendant for egregiously bad conduct toward the plaintiff, and also to deter the defendants and others contemplating similar behavior. The standard in Maryland is gross negligence or actual malice.

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I'm Just a Bill, Part 2In the spirit of our most recent post on raising the insurance coverage in Maryland for certain MAIF claims, let’s talk about another proposed bill before the Maryland legislature, one seeking to impose punitive damages on some drunk drivers.

First, you should know that punitive damages in Maryland are nearly impossible to get in car accident lawsuits. By nearly impossible, I mean impossible. By impossible, I mean it pretty much has to be intentional murder. Lawyers have tried, but even the driver who has been arrested three times for drunk driving, has been in two accidents while driving drunk, and finally kills an entire family, does not get punitive damages.

Punitive damages are damages unrelated to the actual injuries in a case. In most cases, judges and juries pronounce a verdict of compensatory damages, which is meant to replace losses suffered in a Maryland car accident–medical expenses, lost wages, mental anguish, inconvenience, and the like. Punitive damages are linked directly to the person who caused the harm–the worse the behavior of that person, the more punitive damages a judge or jury could impose. Punitives are meant to punish the wrongdoer.

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