Collisions involving DUI / Punitive Conduct

The combination of alcohol consumption and unsafe driving is a constant reality that every motorist in this state must face.  Every night, numerous individuals make the conscious choice of getting behind the wheel of a car when they know they shouldn’t.  The outcome is often catastrophic, and Georgia law designates a specific item of civil damages that can be recovered by the injury victim for this type of alcohol-related punitive conduct.

Punitive damages are a separate item of monetary recovery apart from compensatory damages, and are designed to deter the Defendant from engaging in similar reckless conduct in the future.  Georgia law allows for punitive damages when a tortfeasor / at-fault driver’s conduct is reckless, willful, wanton or shows a conscious disregard for the consequences of his actions. O.C.G.A. § 51-12-5.1.  Under Georgia law, when a driver causes an accident while intoxicated, the issue of punitive damages for his conduct is always for the jury to decide. Craig v. Holsey, 264 Ga. App. 344, 590 S.E.2d 742 (2003) 

As a practical matter, cases involving injuries resulting from a DUI crash must be treated far different from an ordinary auto wreck without such criminal charges.  These cases often benefit from an attorney who quickly files suit to gain the power of subpoena, as there is considerable prosecution evidence available to the victim once the state has either accepted a plea or concluded the criminal trial.  The Houghton Law Firm follows the parallel criminal prosecution very closely in these cases, and Mr. Houghton often attends the arraignment and plea hearings in these cases to get a better understanding of the punitive conduct involved.  Pre-trial depositions of the Defendant frequently reveal prior DUI offenses and often expose severe credibility problems with these Defendants.

Punitive damage verdicts are often far in excess of the amounts returned by a jury for compensatory damages in civil trials involving DUI collisions.  The insurance carriers and defense lawyers retained for the defendant will be reluctant to acknowledge that this type of damages are recoverable, and the injury victim needs a strong advocate to prepare these cases for civil jury trial. 

John Houghton has considerable experience representing injury victims of DUI collisions and works closely with law enforcement and the victim witness advocates in these matters.  Mr. Houghton also has volunteered numerous times with Mothers Against Drunk Driving (M.A.D.D.), and truly relishes being able to help these victims in the face of such dangerous criminal conduct.

TIPS FOR VICTIMS OF DUI-RELATED AUTO COLLISION:*

  • If you believe you smell the presence of alcohol on the at-fault driver, carefully inform the investigating officer
  • Take numerous photos of property damage and injuries after the collision
  • Try to determine if the officer’s dashboard surveillance camera is on; politely ask if it can be turned on during his scene investigation, if it is not already
  • Contact the prosecuting attorney’s office to get in touch with the victim/witness advocate