Fat Tuesday is March 5th, 2019, and revelers across the Mississippi Gulf Coast will enjoy parades and Mardi Gras fun all day. This is a time for family and children to come together to enjoy being outside and soak in local culture. However, all too often people get carried away and what should be a fun time turns tragic. This was evident last night when a suspected drunk driver in New Orleans crashed into a group of cyclists killing two and injuring others.
Drunk driving car accident injuries in Biloxi and Gulfport are much more likely during this time of year. Therefore, we urge all motorist on Tuesday to be extremely careful and aware of other drivers on the road.
If you are injured by a drunk driver there are several important legal factors for you to understand. The biggest difference between a typical car accident case and a drunk driving case is that punitive damages are available. Punitive damages are a type of damage available in cases where wanton conduct that exhibits gross negligence or reckless disregard for the safety of others is exhibited. The purpose of punitive damages is to make an example of the wrongdoer and deter similar future bad conduct.
In the context of intoxicated drivers that cause injuries, the Mississippi Supreme Court has noted that, “We are not called upon to relate how much one’s reaction time is impaired by an alcohol blood content of .24%. We do, however, express our regard for the established social policy prohibiting one from driving a vehicle on our public highways while in an intoxicated condition. A primary purpose in imposing punitive damages is to punish one engaging in grossly negligent conduct and to serve as a warning to such person and others not to engage in similar conduct in the future.” James W. Sessums Timber Co. v. McDaniel, 635 So. 2d 875, 879-80 (Miss. 1994).
Punitive damages may mean that the at fault drivers’ coverage is not sufficient to cover all your damages. Therefore, you should determine how much uninsured motorist coverage you have. The UM statute does not mandate coverage for punitive damages that might be assessed against an uninsured motorist. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co. v. Daughdrill,474 So. 2d 1048 (Miss. 1985). It is legal for uninsured motorist carriers to exclude coverage of punitive damages from drunk drivers. However, if your uninsured motorist policy does not exclude said damages, then they are available.
Your lawsuit against the drunk driver should include a request for punitive damages due to the intoxication. Additionally, the investigating officer should be contacted early in the litigation and be ready to testify at trial.
We hope you have a wonderful and safe Mardi Gras season but if you are injured in a drunk driving collision in Biloxi or Gulfport and have questions about your rights give us a call.