Jury Awards $40 Million In Wrongful Death Case
Car accidents are a common cause of wrongful death. In 2019, they caused more than 36,000 deaths in the United States. Many of these fatalities were caused by reckless acts, such as speeding, not following traffic laws, and drunk driving.
In 2014, a drunk driving accident in Palm City led to the death of a Florida man. A jury recently awarded $40 million to the father of the deceased victim.
The judge ordered the drunk driver to pay $30 million in compensatory damage, plus an additional $10 million in punitive damages, in the death of the 27-year-old man. The drunk driver, now 46 years old, has been in prison since 2015. The man was given a 25-year sentence, as well as a concurrent 15-year sentence, for DUI manslaughter. His release is scheduled for 2037.
The man was driving drunk in February 2014 when his Acura rear-ended a Hyundai at the intersection of Southwest Martin Downs Boulevard and Southwest Mapp Road. The driver fled the scene after causing the fatal crash.
The man’s license was suspended at the time of the crash due to another DUI charge that occurred a month before this accident. The man also had two previous DUI convictions in Colorado, which the judge called “red flags.”
The victim’s father was named representative of his estate. The $40 million award was the largest his lawyer had ever seen for a wrongful death claim. The jury made the decision to award that amount of money.
It’s unlikely the drunk driver will be able to pay up. Under federal law, he cannot use bankruptcy to get out of his financial obligation, since he was impaired from alcohol at the time of the crash.
The man is still appealing his criminal conviction and did not appear at the recent trial.
What Are Punitive Damages?
On top of compensatory and emotional damages, a victim may also receive punitive damages. Punitive damages are given at a judge’s or jury’s discretion and are meant to punish those who engage in especially reckless behavior, or behavior that was intentional or malicious. These damages are given to the victims and their families, with a goal of deterring the person and others from similar behavior.
Given that the drunk driver in this case has driven drunk multiple times before – and was arrested and charged with DUI for doing so – he apparently had an alcohol addiction. It is hopeful that putting him behind bars and forcing him to pay millions of dollars in punitive damages will deter him from driving drunk ever again.
Contact a Bradenton Wrongful Death Lawyer Today
In a wrongful death claim, the burden falls on the plaintiff to prove that the defendant’s negligence or wrongful act caused the victim’s death. However, this can be difficult to prove, since the victim is deceased and cannot tell their side of the story.
The Bradenton wrongful death lawyer at The Cahall Law Firm can investigate the accident and put together a strong case. We will work hard to get a successful outcome. Schedule a free consultation with our office today. Call (941) 281-2019 or fill out the online form.