When are Punitive Damages Recoverable after an Arizona Car Accident?

Punitive damages are often awarded in cases where the at-fault driver has committed acts “beyond ordinary negligence.” Punitive damages can vastly increase the value of your claim, but they won’t be possible in every case. Even cases where you might think punitive damages would be easy to accomplish there’s a lot of room for argument and legal interpretation.

Here’s a brief rundown of acts of negligence which might qualify for punitive damages. Remember, in every case you will need an attorney who is capable of supporting these claims with evidence.


Texting While Driving

Texting while driving is a crime in Arizona. This behavior is so prevalent it’s rapidly replacing DUIs for creating the road’s deadliest accidents. Judges and juries take an exceptionally dim view of these drivers.

Proving the at-fault driver engaged in that behavior gives an attorney leverage to begin talking about punitive damages in the settlement conference.



DUIs aren’t always cause for punitive damages. It depends on just how drunk the driver was when they got behind the wheel. Anybody can slip over the legal limit by mistake, and while they’re still committing a crime they don’t necessarily meet the standard for “beyond ordinary negligence.”

Yet if they were falling down drunk and should have known they couldn’t drive, punitive damages would be a much easier sell.

In these cases the bar that let the drunk driver get behind the wheel might also be held liable for your injuries.


Hit and Runs

Hit and run driving is also a criminal act. While this behavior might not have contributed to the damages directly an attorney may nevertheless be able to make a case for punitive damages, just because the driver tried to escape the consequences of their actions.


Ignoring Mechanical Problems

Getting into a car when the brakes are obviously squealing and the tires are going bald is a reckless act. People who drive on the roads have a duty of care to maintain their vehicles properly.

Anyone can miss a non-obvious mechanical problems, but knowingly taking a vehicle onto the road when it isn’t roadworthy is an act of negligence.


Other Reckless Acts

Any form of overtly dangerous driving might qualify for punitive damages. If the driver was doing 30 over the limit during a dust storm there might well be an excellent case for punitive damages.

Blatantly ignoring traffic laws might serve as another example.


Make the Most of Your Car Accident Claim

When you file your car accident claim it’s imperative to work with an attorney who will look for every opportunity to increase your claim.

Need help? Call Tony Merchant. You’ll get expert help from a personal injury attorney who has decades of experience.  Call (480) 581-8801 to schedule your free consultation.