Jury Orders Convicted Felon to Pay DUI Car Accident Victim $3.2 Million

According to a recent article from The Sacramento Bee, defendant may be suing her insurance company after a jury awarded $3.2 million to a woman who defendant hit and severely inured with her car during a drunk driving accident.

gavel4.jpgDefendant, who now resides in the female offender unit at Folsom prison, was convicted in 2012 on several felony and misdemeanor charges stemming from a nearly fatal drunk driving car crash for which she was responsible.

Evidence in her criminal case included a video recording from a traffic camera that showed defendant’s car drifting right while making a left turn. Defendant’s car then went over the curb and hit a pedestrian. The pedestrian’s head cracked the car windshield before she was thrown into the air.

When the injured pedestrian landed, she broke her back in several places, her wrist, leg, and most of her ribs. She also punctured a lung. After the accident, doctors determined that she had suffered a diffuse axonal traumatic brain injury (TBI) when her head hit the windshield. The victim is left with memory loss and an inability to balance herself. As our Boston attorneys who handle drunk driving accident cases understand, TBIs often involve extensive use of expert witnesses.

The victim’s boyfriend was with her at the time accident and appeared to be struck by the car and also received major injuries.

After defendant was convicted and sentenced to five years and four months in prison, the car accident victim sued defendant for negligence related to the drunk driving crash. Her insurance company defended her. The insurance company offered to pay the female victim the policy limit of $100,000 and a lesser amount to the boyfriend. This offer was rejected.

While there was a dispute over whether another settlement offer was made, the case eventually went to trial, where the jury awarded $3,182,990 in medical expenses and $2,000 in punitive damages. As we have discussed in other blog entries, compensatory damages (pain and suffering) are the normal measure of damages in car accident cases. However, when defendant’s conduct is so egregious and shows a complete disregard for the safety of others, they jury can award an additional amount to punish defendants.

Normally, punitive damages are awarded in excessively high amounts to serve as a message that this type of conduct won’t be tolerated by society; in this case, that amount was $2,000. While that may seem like an insignificant amount of money compared to the millions we typically see as a punitive damages award, at her current wages of 65 cents per hour in Folsom, it will take a long time to pay $2,000.

This, of course, brings up an important issue you should discuss when speaking with your attorney. When discussing a possible settlement, the amount of insurance and defendant’s ability to pay anything above and beyond insurance policy limits should be considered. While a jury verdict of millions of dollars may seem like a win, if defendant has no income or assets, it may be difficult to collect on that judgment. Whether a case ends by reaching a settlement or goes to trial, the ultimate goal of your attorney should be to get you a fair and appropriate financial recovery that you will actually receive.

If you have been injured in a Boston drunk driving accident, call for a free and confidential appointment at (617) 777-7777.

Additional Resources:

Verdict in civil DUI case likely to prompt suit against insurance company, September 13, 2014, The Sacramento Bee
More Blog Entries:

MADD Working with NFL Teams to Curb Drunk Driving, July 11, 2014, Boston Drunk Driving Accident Lawyer Blog

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