Punitive Damages Should Be Allowable in Texting and Driving Cases
I recently posted a blog seeking folks’ opinions regarding whether punitive damages should be allowed in texting and driving cases. As previously discussed, the purpose of punitive damages is to punish the defendant and deter others from similar behavior. Punitive damages are not intended to compensate the victim for her injuries. Thus, a party must obtain leave of court to be permitted to even ask a jury to award punitive damages.
Punitive damages are warranted when the defendant acts with an utter indifference or conscious disregard for the well-being of others. The plaintiff must do more than simply prove the defendant was negligent. The plaintiff must prove that the defendant’s conduct towards the plaintiff was “willful and wanton”. For example, Illinois courts have allowed a plaintiff to seek punitive damages in instances where the defendant was driving under the influence of alcohol at the time of a car collision.
Illinois courts have not yet determined whether texting and driving rises to the level of willful and wanton conduct that warrants punitive damages. In my opinion, punitive damages are warranted in crashes that are caused by texting and driving. By now, everyone knows how dangerous texting and driving is. There has been a concerted public safety awareness campaign to spread the word. Even without a public safety campaign, common sense dictates that typing and reading while driving prevents the driver from watching the road.
Texting and driving is dangerous and selfish. Like drinking and driving, too many people still engage in this behavior. Everyone thinks that they are okay to do it yet the statistics show this is not the case. For every statistic, there are two families whose lives are forever altered. The family of the victim and the family of the driver who was texting and not watching the road.