Can a defendant be sued for punitive damages following a DUI auto accident if they served 1 year in jail?

UPDATED: Nov 21, 2018

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Can a defendant be sued for punitive damages following a DUI auto accident if they served 1 year in jail?

The driver was involved in an accident and was charged with DUI. She served 1

year in jail and the plaintiff filed a lawsuit 2 years later. Can the defendant still be

sued for punitive damages?

Asked on November 21, 2018 under Criminal Law, Connecticut


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

First, if a lawsuit was already filed by the plaintiff:
1) If the lawsuit has been settled or resolved, that's it: once the case is determined, you cannot sue for more or again for the same act or incident. Under the "entire controversy" doctorine, all claims had to be brought together, in the same case, and claims not brought then are given up forever.
2) If the lawsuit is still going on, you can add a claim for punitive damages if you are still earlier enough in the lawsuit to "amend" or revise the complaint freely; typically, though, that's only for the first several weeks or few months, depending on your state's exact court rules. After that, you can only add a claim if the court gives you permission to do so (you have to file a motion, or official request, to amend). Generally, the earlier, the more likely it is that the motion will be granted; after discovery is complete, it is VERY unlikely that it would be.
Second, even if you can add the claim, be advised that punitive damages are comparatively rare except in cases evidencing something like "depraved indifference" to life or the consequences, or an intentional attempt to harm another. A DUI might be a situation supporting punitive damages, but it is not certain; much depends on circumstances, like how much over the limit she was, whether there was a pattern of excessive drinking or this one a one-time event. The law, for example, will view differently someone who happened to have one or two glasses of wine too many, vs. a power drinker who has had previousl problems with alcohol.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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