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Last Modified: January 4, 2023

5 Types of Damages Available to Survivors of a DUI Wrongful Death

Published on January 8, 2013 • Last updated January 4, 2023 by Ken Christensen
Topics: Car Accidents, Drunk Driving, Wrongful Death


In 2011, Insurance Journal posited that the average cost of a fatal car accident in Utah totals $281 million.  This shockingly exorbitant bill covers only medical expenses and income lost during the time of the decedent’s convalescence and after their passing.  That reckoning doesn’t even touch funeral expenses, medical bills, and burial costs which also follow as a direct result of the drunk driving accident…and those costs, in turn, do not begin to equal the emotional toll exacted by a DUI wrongful death.

Even aside from the boggling expenditures that become necessary after a serious auto accident, the mesh of discordant emotions following a DUI wrongful death can be bewildering to those left behind to readjust their lives and carry on.  Resignation conflicts with anger at the loss, which in turn, is at odds with the desire to forgive and put the tragedy behind them.  At their least devastating, this tangle distracts the survivors from their day-to-day tasks and interferes with their ability to heal.  At worst, it can render them inert to actions that could ease their burden in the long run and allow them to heal more gracefully.  Nevertheless, it is vital that the survivors of a wrongful death seek needed compensation before the 2-year statute of limitations expires.

Because wrongful death is such a sensitive issue and such a strong accusation, the claimant must establish that alcohol played a prominent role in the car accident and that the drunk driving accident in question was the cause of the death or of the injuries leading up to it.  Since it is difficult to predict the full cost of a fatal accident, a wrongful death attorney should be consulted to help determine what damages the survivors are owed.

1.      Direct expenses

The first goal of compensatory damages is to cover those costs which arose as a proximate result of the wrongful death.  Chief among these are the medical expenses and funeral costs incurred by the death, itself.  These damages are most easily calculated, as they are simply tallied by adding the bills.

2.      Pain and suffering

The decedent’s pain and suffering prior to their death is the primary concern of this sort of compensation, although there is an implication that the survivors’ ordeal is taken into account, as well.  The accident victim’s loss of quality of life due to injuries and distress at being unable to fulfill their prior duties and indulge their former pursuits are also taken into consideration.

3.      Lost income

If others depended upon the victim of a drunk driving accident for support, lost income may come into settlement negotiation to enable the surviving dependents to continue on with their lives with minimal growing pains.  This is particularly true when the survivors are minor children incapable of caring for themselves.

 4.      Deprivation of presence

These sorts of damages are the nearest thing the legal system has to placing a monetary value on a human life.  While no amount of money can possibly restore a human being or even an excuse for one, the void once occupied by their emotional support and unpaid contributions to those closest to them cannot be ignored.  DUI wrongful deaths deprive children of caretakers, parents of children, and spouses from their companions; some compensation, at least, must be made.

5.      Punitive damages

In Utah, punitive damages are split-recovery, meaning that part of what punitive damages may be awarded is funneled back into the community.  Or, sometimes, punitive damages are not awarded, such as when the judge determines that compensatory damages are sufficient to send a message to the perpetrator and to Utah society at large.  A competent wrongful death attorney can ensure that the victims are awarded punitive damages to which they have a right.Once it has been proven that the disaster was a drunk driving accident, the survivors may be entitled to punitive damages in addition to several different kinds of compensatory damages in certain cases.  A police report made at the scene would include information regarding whether or not the accused was legally intoxicated at the time, and whether they were at fault for the accident, and medical records show the cause of death; however, those embroiled in a complex or highly-disputed case should hire a wrongful death attorney.

If you or someone you love is struggling after the death of someone close to them, they don’t have to contend by themselves.  At no cost, Utah wrongful death attorneys Good Guys Injury Law offer free initial consultations for those who are unsure whether they should hire a lawyer for their particular case or simply wondering what to do next—without any commitment to retain.  To learn more, call (801) 506-0800.

Good Guys Injury Law - Orem

1145 S 800 E #101A Orem,UT 84097

Phone: (801) 224-2999

Good Guys Injury Law - Bountiful

503 W 2600 S #200 Bountiful,UT 84010

Phone: (801) 294-9500

Good Guys Injury Law - Salt Lake City

32 W 200 S Salt Lake City, UT 84101

Phone: (801) 849-1949

Good Guys Injury Law - Draper

11693 S 700 E #100

Draper, UT 84020

Phone: (801) 506-0800