In addition to severe criminal penalties that result from a DWI conviction separate expensive civil penalties may also result. Someone who is injured or has a family member who is killed as the result of a drunk driver may sue in civil court under a tort law. Not only may someone who sues in civil court be entitled to compensatory damages but he or she may also be able to collect punitive damages. Compensatory damages are those that result directly from the accident such as medical bills or loss wages. Punitive damages are an award beyond compensatory damages that in essence seek to punish the offending party. These damages are typically determined by a jury and in cases which a drunk driver is involved the assessment damages tends to be higher because of the inherent evil perceived in the minds of the public regarding drunk driving.
Consider these civil cases which involved victims of drunk drivers. A case in Tennessee in which a victim of a drunk driver was awarded a total of $9.25 million of which $8.75 million was given in punitive damages. Also in Florida the families of three victims who were killed by a drunk driver received a $15 million award including $1 million in punitive damages. An even higher award of $55 million was awarded to the parents of a three year old who was left permanently injured by a drunk driver.
No one should ever drink and drive. If the thought of possibly injuring or killing someone is not enough of a deterrent to avoid driving while intoxicated then perhaps considering the criminal penalties in conjunction with steep monetary costs will make someone re-think that decision.