DENVER (CBS4) – A mother has made it her mission to make drunk drivers pay dearly for the accidents they cause. She’s backing a bill that would put anyone convicted of a DUI on the hook not only for their victim’s medical bills, but emotional damages.
Seven years ago Christie Lovejoy was hit by a drunk driver going 65 mph in the wrong direction. Her mother, Tammy Lovejoy-Teixeira, says she is still recovering from injuries.
“Every day she has pain in her legs, she’s had over 17 surgeries, she has (post traumatic stress disorder), anxiety depression,” Lovejoy-Teixeira said.
Lovejoy-Teixeira says medical bills alone topped $1 million, but she says the emotional costs are far greater. In Colorado the state caps the damages at $468,000.
“That’s no right, it’s not fair,” Sen. John Morse said.
Morse said injuries, not the state, should decide what victims deserve. He introduced a bill that would eliminate the cap on non-economic damages in civil suits brought against drunk drivers.
“This gives us option to say, ‘Here’s the full cost,take the full cost, instead of a fraction of cost,” Morse said.
Insurers argue it won’t be the drunk driver who pays, but everyone. They say the bill will drive up premiums.
“Insurance companies are one of biggest proponents of cracking down on drunk drivers, but this bill won’t result in actual higher claim payouts for victims,” Carole Walker with the Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association said. “It won’t deter drunk drivers. What it will do is result in insurance companies, not offenders, paying out more in lawsuits.”
In Lovejoy-Teixiera’s daughter’s case the drunk driver’s insurer paid $50,000.
“There is no compensation for Christie,” she said.
She hopes there will be for other victims.
“Why are we protecting the drunk driver when the victim is the one sentenced to a lifetime of distress?” Lovejoy-Teixiera said.
The bill goes before the judiciary committee at the Capitol on Wednesday and two powerful lobbies will go head to head — insurers who oppose it and trial lawyers who support it.
As for lawmakers, the bill has bi-partisan support and a good chance of passing.