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Car Accident Fatalities and Injuries Due to Drunk Driving

January 2, 2023 Personal Injury

According to the NHTSA Database, approximately 32 people die per day in America due to drunk driving. Over the course of a year, that’s over 11,000 unnecessary deaths.  In addition, drunk driving causes injuries in over 100,000 car accidents every year.

When a drunk driver causes injury or death, the dynamics change on the legal end. In most instances, the amount of compensation to the victim (or their family) increases.  In addition, the type of compensation can be different.  Let’s explore more:

Drunk Driving: Negligence v. Wantonness

When someone is harmed in a car accident, there are two potential legal theories that provide compensation. The first is negligence and the second is wantonness.

Most car wrecks are due to negligence. Negligence is simply the “failure to use reasonable care.” For example, when someone misjudges their stopping distance and causes a rear-end collision, this is likely a case of negligence.

In addition to negligence, there is the legal theory of wantonness.  Wantonness is defined as “the conscious or reckless disregard for the rights and safety of others.” Wantonness is a heightened level of culpability.  The most common example of wantonness is driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

In the majority of car wrecks, there will be negligence but no wantonness.  However, if you were hit by a drunk driver, there is a good chance your attorney can prove the drunk driver was wanton.

How Wantonness Increases the Value of Your Personal Injury Claim

If the other driver was just negligent, then you are only entitled to compensatory damages.  Compensatory damages are designed to reimburse you for losses or for the hard times you have been through.  Compensatory damages include things such as medical bills, pain and suffering, mental anguish, and loss of income.

However, if the other driver was wanton, then you may be entitled to punitive damages. Punitive damages are monies that are awarded to punish the wrongdoer and to deter him from committing similar acts in the future.

Due to this, if your accident was a result of the other driver being drunk, then the value of your personal injury claim naturally increases. You are entitled to money to compensate you for the harm you have suffered, but you are also entitled to an amount of money that adequately punishes the drunk driver.

How Drunk Driving Affects a Wrongful Death Claim

In Alabama, when someone dies due to either negligence or wantonness, the sole type of damages available are punitive damages. In other words, there are no compensatory damages available (i.e. no reimbursement of medical bills, no pain and suffering, no funeral expenses, etc.)

Due to this rule, the character of the wrongdoer’s conduct is extremely important in determining a fair settlement amount. For example, if the wrongdoer was an elderly woman who ran a red light on her way to church and killed someone, this may negatively impact the value of the wrongful death claim.


Since the sole measure of recovery is punitive damages, then a jury or judge may not want to punish the elderly woman. And insurance companies know this.

On the other hand, if the wrongdoer was a drunk driver, most people would want to punish the wrongdoer.  Given this, you can expect a larger amount of money when a drunk driver causes a death.

As you can see, the type of wrongdoing is very important to determine the value of a wrongful death case. For more information about wrongful death claims, watch the video below:

Questions After Being Hit By a Drunk Driver?

Personal injury lawyers do not charge you any money to talk.  We frequently give people free advice over the phone and we even offer free consultations.

If you have been in a car accident caused by a drunk driver, reach out to us today to discuss your legal rights.