If you have been injured by a drunk driver in Northern Virginia, contact us at (703) 348-4646 for a fast free legal consultation.
When a drunk driver causes an accident that causes injuries– there are additional considerations for victims. Because it is illegal to drive while intoxicated in Northern Virginia, the drunk driver’s own insurance company will often presume that the driver was negligent and admit fault for the crash. In such cases, the lawsuit may focus instead on damages. How bad was the crash? What injuries did the victim(s) have? How many victims are there? All these factors can affect the final result.
One key issue for victims of drunk drivers, is punitive damages. Besides the damages available in most personal injury cases in Virginia, which compensate the victim for bodily injuries, medical expenses, pain and suffering, inconvenience, and lost wages, punitive damages may also be available for victims in drunk driving cases.
Unlike compensatory damages, the purpose of punitive damages is to punish the defendant for outrageous conduct. In Virginia, punitive damages require that the defendant acted with malice toward the plaintiff, or that his conduct conduct is so willful or wanton as to show a conscious disregard for the rights of others.
There is a Virginia law that provides for punitive damages for victims hit by drunk drivers in some cases.
Va. Code 8.01-44.5 states:
A defendant’s conduct shall be deemed sufficiently willful or wanton as to show a conscious disregard for the rights of others when the evidence proves that (i) when the incident causing the injury or death occurred, the defendant had a blood alcohol concentration of 0.15 percent or more by weight by volume or 0.15 grams or more per 210 liters of breath; (ii) at the time the defendant began drinking alcohol, or during the time he was drinking alcohol, he knew or should have known that his ability to operate a motor vehicle, engine or train would be impaired, or when he was operating a motor vehicle he knew or should have known that his ability to operate a motor vehicle was impaired; and (iii) the defendant’s intoxication was a proximate cause of the injury to or death of the plaintiff.
If the drunk driver “unreasonably refused” to a test of his blood alcohol content, the requirements for punitive damages are deemed met when the evicence proves that (a) when the incident causing the injury or death occurred the defendant was intoxicated, which may be established by evidence concerning the conduct or condition of the defendant; (b) at the time the defendant began drinking alcohol, or during the time he was drinking alcohol, he knew or should have known that his ability to operate a motor vehicle was impaired; and (c) the defendant’s intoxication was a proximate cause of the injury.
Given this law, it is especially important to call the police if you are injured and let them know if you suspect the driver is intoxicated. This allows them to investigate and, if appropriate, arrest the drunk driver and test his blood alcohol content. This also prevents him from harming anyone else. If you are injured in a crash, use your camera to document the scene and be sure and capture all relevant information. Look around and see whether there is a video camera that may have captured the crash.
This firm has experience representing injured victims of drunk drivers, and will fight hard to make sure you get what you deserve. Contact (703) 348-4646 for a free consultation.