When you’re hurt in a crash that wasn’t your fault, you’re legally entitled to file a compensation claim against your own auto insurance, the other driver’s auto insurance, or both. Personal injury claims are designed to help innocent victims avoid financial ruin, as they provide money for things like medical bills, lost wages, and even pain and suffering.
But in some rare auto accident cases, victims can receive another type of payment called punitive damages. Although this money is paid to victims, it isn’t designed to compensate them for their losses or their injuries. Instead, it’s designed to punish the at-fault parties for behaving in an extremely reckless or malicious manner.
Most auto accident victims aren’t eligible for punitive damages, but there are a few situations where they might come into play.
When the Other Driver Was Extremely Impaired or Intoxicated
Many auto accidents are caused by drivers who are under the influence of drugs or alcohol. And while those drivers may face criminal charges in addition to civil liability, they usually don’t face punitive damages. However, punitive damages may come into play when at-fault drivers are extremely intoxicated or impaired—especially if they have a history of driving while under the influence.
When the Other Driver Caused the Crash Intentionally
Most drivers do everything in their power to avoid a crash. Collisions are painful, costly, and potentially deadly. But some drivers lose control of their emotions or even plan to use their vehicles as weapons and intentionally crash into other vehicles. Drivers who intentionally cause crashes may be forced to pay punitive damages to punish them for their malicious behavior.
When the Other Driver Was Racing
Street racing is one of the most dangerous things drivers can do on Oklahoma’s streets. It’s not uncommon for vehicles involved in street races to reach speeds of more than 100 mph. And when the drivers of those vehicles lose control, become distracted, or fail to slow down in time, they can cause crashes that can severely injure or even kill victims.
When the Other Driver Fled the Scene
All auto accidents have the potential to be traumatic events, but they can be even more disturbing to victims when the drivers who cause them flee the scene. Drivers may engage in hit-and-runs when they don’t want to face responsibility for their actions or when they’re heavily intoxicated and aren’t even aware that they caused a crash.
When the Other Driver Failed to Repair or Maintain Their Dangerous Vehicle
It’s one thing to drive a vehicle that needs new brakes or tires soon. It’s another thing entirely to drive a vehicle with completely worn or damaged brakes or tires. When drivers get behind the wheels of vehicles that they know or should know are dangerous due to neglect or non-roadworthiness, they may be on the hook for punitive damages for knowingly putting others at serious risk.
When the Other Driver Was Pushed Beyond Their Limits by Their Employer
In some cases, drivers cause crashes but aren’t held liable for them or forced to pay punitive damages. Instead, their employers are. These cases may occur when employees are required to drive as part of their jobs, but their employers require them to drive for extremely long stretches or without sufficient rest. Long hours behind the wheel can mean exhaustion, distraction, and even falling asleep.
There’s a Cap on Punitive Damages in Oklahoma
In addition to being rare, punitive damages are capped in Oklahoma. The largest sum that victims can receive is $100,000. Despite this cap and their rarity, it’s always worth exploring the option of whether punitive damages are applicable after an auto accident.
That’s because many crashes do involve extremely reckless behavior, and having an experienced law firm on your side can help highlight that behavior and the justification for punishing the at-fault driver or party.
It’s Our Goal to Get You Every Penny You’re Owed
At Parrish DeVaughn Injury Lawyers, we look at all angles when building personal injury claims for our clients. We know that the costs of auto accidents can be much higher than insurance companies and even victims initially believe, and that’s why we never overlook any potential avenue for getting our clients money for their medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
When you contact our Oklahoma auto accident lawyers, you’ll get a law firm that has your best interests in mind and that won’t rest until the insurance company knows exactly how much money you’re owed. Reach out today for a free consultation—we’re here for you 24/7, and you don’t owe us anything unless we get money for you.