Personal Injury Actions Involving DWI’s May Lead to Punitive Damages

Individuals who are injured by a person driving while intoxicated may be entitled to punitive damages in addition to the compensatory damages that awarded.  The New York Appellate Division, Second Department ruled in Chiara v. Dernago, 12 A.D.3d 999; 11 N.Y.S. App. Div. Lexis 4367; 2015 NY Slip Op 04444, that in certain situations, punitive damages are warranted.  The excerpt from the decision is as follows:

“Whereas compensatory damages are intended to assure that the victim receives “fair and just compensation commensurate with the injury sustained,” punitive damages are meant to “punish the tortfeasor and to deter this wrongdoer and others similarly situated from indulging in the same conduct in the future” (Ross v. Louise Wise Servs., Inc., 8 NY3d 478, 489, 868 NE2d 189, 836 NYS2d 509 [2007]; see Sharapata v Town of Islip, 56 NY2d 332, 335, 437 NE2d 1104, 452 NYS2d 347 [1982]; Walker v Sheldon, 10 NY2d 401, 404, 179 NE2d 497, 223 NYS2d 488 [1961]; Western N.Y. Land Conservancy, Inc. v Cullen, 66 AD3d 1461, 1463, 886 NYS2d 303 [2009]).  Evidence that a defendant was driving while intoxicated is insufficient, standing alone, to justify the imposition of punitive damages (see Rodgers v Duffy, 95 AD3d 864, 866-867, 944 NYS2d 175 [2012]; D’Angelo v Litterer, 77 AD3d 1373, 1374, 907 NYS2d 917 [2010]; Trudeau v Cooke, 2 AD3d 1133, 1134, 769 NYS2d 322 [2003]; Deon v Fortuna, 283 AD2d 388, 389, 724 NYS2d 450 [2001]).  However, driving while intoxicated may support an award for punitive damages where there is additional evidence that the defendant engaged in “wanton and reckless” conduct evincing heedlessness and an utter disregard for the safety of others (Shragel v Juszczyk, 43 AD3d 1375, 1375, 844 NYS2d 532 [2007]; see Parkhill v Cleary, 305 AD2d 1088, 1089, 759 NYS2d 262 [2003]; Taylor v Dyer, 190 AD2d 902, 903, 593 NYS2d 122 [1993]; Sweeney v McCormick, 159 AD2d 832, 834, 552 NYS2d 707 [1990]; see also Deon v Fortuna, 283 AD2d at 389).  An evaluation of whether punitive damages are warranted must be made “on a case by case basis taking into account the nature of the actor’s conduct and the level of his intoxication” (Sweeney v McCormick, 159 AD2d at 834).”

Personal Injury Attorney

Retaining an attorney that understands how to prosecute a personal injury action can make all the difference in your case. When you or a loved one are injured by someone driving while intoxicated, please know that we are here to help you.  Call the Law Firm of Vaughn, Weber & Prakope, PLLC at 516-858-2620 to speak to an experienced personal injury attorney.

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