In Minnesota, intoxicated drivers face criminal consequences. In addition, the victim of a drunk driver may file a civil action for damages against the drunk driver. “Damages” refers to an award of money the jury may impose against the drunk driver. The victim who is injured by the drunk driver may seek compensatory damages, which compensate or “make whole” for actual losses such as lost wages, medical bills or pain and suffering.
Besides compensatory damages, the drunk driver’s victim may seek punitive damages, which are sums of money the jury may award to punish the drunk driver and to deter the drunk driver and others from similar conduct in the future.
A Minnesota statute, Minn. Stat. § 169A.76(a), provides the jury may award punitive damages if there is evidence that the accident was caused by a driver:
— With an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more;
— Who was under the influence of a controlled substance;
— Who was under the influence of alcohol and refused to take a chemical test for intoxication; or
— Who was knowingly under the influence of a hazardous substance that substantially affects the person’s nervous system, brain, or muscles so as to impair the person’s ability to drive or operate a motor vehicle.
A criminal conviction is not a prerequisite to pursuing a punitive damages claim against a drunk driver.
Persons injured by drunk drivers are entitled to consult attorneys to pursue a damages award. The lawyers at Bye, Goff & Rohde, Ltd. provide free consultations at (715) 202-5699.