A legal theory that is often alleged in the plaintiff’s complaint, propounded at trial and/ or argued to a jury in a closing argument by The Rotatori Law Firm in civil automobile and motor vehicle collision cases is a Conn. Gen. Stat. 14-295 claim for personal injury exemplary damages. When a motor vehicle operator speeds, operates a motor vehicle recklessly, drives a motor vehicle under the influence of intoxicating liquor (DUI), passes another automobile in a no passing zone or follows another motor vehicle more closely than reasonable with intent to harass, that operator may subject himself to damages for attorneys fees and costs over and above customary compensatory damages. These damages are called double or treble exemplary damages. In laymans terms, these are often called "punitive damages" awarded to the reckless driving victim.
Where the DUI case involves excessive alcohol consumption and injury to the DUI victim, their also may be an additional overlapping dram shop liability claim against a bar, restaurant, liquor store or night club. This "case within a case" needs to be investigated by an experienced personal injury lawyer.
COMPENSATORY DAMAGES VERSUS DOUBLE OR TREBLE DAMAGES
Compensatory damages awarded under an automobile accident negligence theory typically include monetary payment for medical bills, wage loss, impairment of earning capacity, pain, permanent injury and loss of the plaintiff’s ability to fully enjoy one’s life.
For the plaintiff to recover statutory motor vehicle “exemplary” double or treble damages, the plaintiff must prove that one of the enumerated statutory violations identified in Conn. Gen. Stat. 14-295 was violated by the defendant deliberately or with a reckless disregard for the safety of the plaintiff. The plaintiff must then show that the violation was a substantial factor in causing personal injury, death or property damage. Double or treble damages are reserved for cases which involve specific statutory offenses that are violated at a level more serious than simple negligence.
Where the plaintiff at trial factually demonstrates that the defendant consciously chose a course of action knowing the serious risk of danger to others or had knowledge of particular facts which would disclose a substantial risk of harm to a reasonable person, an award to the injured plaintiff for exemplary damages under Conn. Gen. Stat. 14-295 is proper and will hold up on appeal.
AUTOMOBILE POLICY EXCLUSIONS FOR EXEMPLARY DAMAGES
Many automobile or motor vehicle insurance liability contracts and umbrella policies have exclusions written into their insurance policies for double or treble exemplary damages. In essence, this means that an insurance carrier that writes an automobile liability policy or excess umbrella coverage may not indemnify the insured or pay any damages associated with a Conn. Gen. Stat. 14-295 claim. This potentially leaves the defendant insured personally exposed for any double or treble damages awarded by the fact finder which may be either a jury or trial judge. This can cause a significant legal problem for the defendant who caused the car, motorcycle or trucking accident. Exemplary damages awarded at trial will include an attorney fee added on to the compensatory damage award. This can be a significant dollar amount.
SECURING AN AWARD & IDENTIFYING INSURANCE COVERAGE FOR AN EXEMPLARY DAMAGE AWARD
A plaintiff’s attorney may seek to have any potential exemplary award secured by a prejudgment remedy against property owned by the defendant. The defendant may receive a reservation of rights notification letter from their automobile liability carrier notifying the defendant that any exemplary award will not be paid as it is excluded under the insurance policy. This must be timely provided to the defendant. The plaintiff, through the use of the discovery process in the civil lawsuit, will ascertain whether liability insurance coverage is being afforded to the defendant for any exemplary claim brought against the defendant. There are some motor vehicle policies that don’t write exemplary damage exclusion into their policies but these insurance policies are both few and far between and the exceptions rather than the rule.
PLAINTIFF COMPLAINT PLEADING TIPS
The plaintiff’s attorney when drafting the statutory reckless count of his client’s complaint should never plead that the defendants conduct was “intentional” but reckless as pled by the supporting facts. The use of the word “intentional” will likely plead the plaintiff out of any potential defendant insurance coverage for violations of the enumerated statutes listed in Conn. Gen. Stat. 14-295.
Cases were The Rotatori Law Firm have brought statutory reckless claims have included accidents caused by commercial truck drivers driving under the influence of liquor and drugs, intersection high impact broad side collisions caused by blinding sun, rear end automobile collisions caused by defendant lap top computer use while operating a motor vehicle and residential neighborhood high speed rear end collisions.
If you have suffered personal injury in an automobile or motor vehicle accident which may typically involve alcohol use, speeding or reckless driving, contact Connecticut accident attorney Peter Rotatori, III at The Rotatori Law Firm for help in prosecuting your case. Mr. Rotatori can help you secure the proper monetary damages for your motor vehicle case which may include a Conn. Gen. Stat. 14-295 claim as the facts and supporting evidence allow. You may send Mr. Rotatori a contact form by way of this website or contact him at (203) 626-1446.
The Rotatori Law Firm practices civil DUI victim personal injury and accident law in the following Fairfield County cities and towns: Berkshire, Bethel, Branchville, Bridgeport, Brookfield, Byram, Cos Cob, Cranbury, Danbury, Darien, Easton, Fairfield, Georgetown, Glenville, Greenfield Hill, Greenwich, Hawleyville, Huntington, Long Hill, Lyons Plain, Mill Plain, Monroe, New Canaan, New Fairfield, Newtown, Nichols,Noroton, Norwalk, Redding, Redding Ridge, Ridgefield, Riverside, Round Hill, Sandy Hook, Saugatuck, Shelton, Sherman, Southport, Stafford, Stamford, Stepney, Stratford, Trumbull, Weston, Westport, and Wilton.