When someone gets hurt in a car accident through no fault of their own, they’re usually entitled to compensatory damages. Such damages aim to reimburse victims for virtually all the losses they wouldn’t have incurred had they not been involved in the accident in the first place.
Minnesota also recognizes punitive damages. Though not awarded nearly as often, punitive damages attempt to penalize the at-fault party for especially gross negligence or intentional misconduct. Generally speaking, a claimant can seek a punitive award if the liable party knew—or should have known—their actions had a high probability of causing injury, but they proceeded anyway.
When it comes to motor-vehicle collisions, only a few scenarios fall under that umbrella. Let’s take a look at what the most likely circumstances are:
1. The Motorist Was Under the Influence of Drugs or Alcohol
Getting behind the wheel while knowingly impaired—in other words, after drinking alcohol, doing drugs, or taking certain kinds of medication—constitutes a deliberate disregard for the rights of others. Put another way, motorists have an implied duty of care to those in traffic around them, and driving under the influence is a clear violation of it.
2. The Motorist Was Driving in a Reckless Manner
Driving in an especially reckless manner can be considered criminally negligent. Consequently, those who do so are often responsible for punitive damages in the event of a wreck.
Examples of driving so recklessly that it constitutes gross negligence include:
• Driving much faster than the posted speed limit (or than is safe for the conditions at the time),
• Running red lights and stop signs,
• Swerving back and forth between lanes,
• Traveling in the wrong direction, and
• Traveling on the shoulder or in the median.
3. The Motorist Ignored a Major Safety Hazard
Motorists have an obligation to maintain their vehicles so they’re reasonably safe for road travel. This includes getting regular tune-ups and replacing broken headlights promptly.
Motorists are also expected to stay on top of any recalls. If they receive a letter from their vehicle’s manufacturer about a potentially dangerous defect, for example, they must take the recommended course of action as soon as possible.
When motorists neglect their vehicles or ignore any major safety hazards, they knowingly put everyone around them at risk of injury and even death. As such, people who end up getting hurt because of their negligence could make a case for punitive damages in addition to the standard compensatory damages.
Speak with a Minneapolis Car Accident Attorney
If you were hurt in a car accident and think you might be entitled to a punitive award on top of the typical compensatory damages, turn to Bradshaw & Bryant. Our legal team is well-versed in tort law, including claims that involve motor-vehicle collisions.
By letting us handle every aspect of your case, you can focus on your recovery. To set up your free case review with a car accident lawyer in Minneapolis, complete our Contact Form or call 800-770-7008.
A founding partner with Bradshaw & Bryant, Mike Bryant has always fought to find justice for his clients—knowing that legal troubles, both personal injury and criminal, can be devastating for a family. Voted a Top 40 Personal Injury "Super Lawyer" multiple years, Mr. Bryant has also been voted one of the Top 100 Minnesota "Super Lawyers" four times.
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