There are many different types of damage awards that a jury can order in an auto accident civil trial. But one category of compensation which isn’t commonly associated with these cases is punitive damages. That’s because, as the name suggests, punitive damages are generally reserved for defendants who have either shown a propensity to carry out willfully reckless acts that harm other people or those who commit offenses repeatedly despite having been punished before.
However, punitive damages might be appropriate for one man who caused a serious Chicago auto accident this weekend. Just before midnight Sunday evening, a 34-year old Bolingbrook man was driving eastbound on Lake Street just northeast of Garfield Park on the west side of the city. The driver tried to pass a slower car by swerving left into the westbound lanes. But another car was turning from Homan Avenue onto westbound Lake and collided with the Bolingbrook man’s car, struck the car that was being passed, then careened into a support post for the elevated train. Altogether, three people were hurt, two of them seriously. The 34-year old (who was also injured) was arrested and charged with misdemeanor driving while intoxicated and driving under the influence of drugs. Because he was driving with a suspended license from a previous DUI, those charges may be upgraded to felonies.
The three victims in the wrong-way auto accident appear to have solid grounds or personal injury lawsuits against the Bolingbrook man. They may be entitled to receive reimbursement for medical expenses, damages for pain and suffering, and compensation for lost time at work. But because the suspect was allegedly drunk and high while driving on a suspended license from another DUI, there’s a chance that a jury could award punitive damages to the plaintiffs as well. The idea would be to send a message to the suspect in civil court that his behavior is unacceptable and will not be tolerated.