Already served papers to drunk driver, should I amend to add punitive damages?

UPDATED: Sep 30, 2022

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Already served papers to drunk driver, should I amend to add punitive damages?

Back in November I was hit by an uninsured drunk driver who totaled my car. As my insurance didn’t include uninsured motorists, I am having to sue him on my own for the cost of the vehicle, towing, and a chiropractor visit. This comes out to approximately 2300 dollars. When visiting my girlfriend’s personal injury lawyer for a completely unrelated accident, I asked him at what point I should ask for my court fees and serving fees to be reimbursed. He asked about my case and when I told him I already served the papers and it wouldn’t take place until the end of July, he recommended I go to the court and amend the case to add 7500 dollars in punitive damages and then serve him again. Since the guy was arrested for a DUI that night he said it likely would be a ‘No Brainer’ for the judge and I would get the ruling in my favor.

Now I’m wondering how likely is this to happen? I’m not sure how punitive damages work, so it would take some time and money to amend and re-serve the papers for potentially no return. At the same time I don’t want to leave money on the table, especially if it’s a ‘No Brainer.’

Another fear I have is that if I sue him for 2300 he might be more likely to pay, but if another 7500 is stacked on top he might just declare bankruptcy and I won’t see a dime. Does declaring bankruptcy save you from paying court-ordered debts?

Thanks I appreciate any advice

Asked on June 17, 2016 under Accident Law, California


S.L,. Member, California Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

The attorney is correct regarding amending the complaint and seeking punitive damages. If you prevail in the case, you can recover the court costs such as the court filing fee and process server fee.
It is worth it to file the amended complaint and seek punitive damages to punish the wrongful act of the defendant's drunk driving.
The drunk driver could file bankruptcy regardless of the amount of the judgment. That is always a risk of litigation.

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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