Written by our personal injury lawyers in Charlottesville
Many drunk drivers think that they are committing a victimless crime. After all, they have just had a few drinks and they don’t think there is anything wrong with getting behind the wheel of a car. But, that careless action can lead to a car accident where a truly innocent person is severely injured. The injury victim then has to deal with medical bills, loss of income, medical problems and permanent injuries. Such cases are not rare. In Charlottesville, Augusta County, Waynesboro and throughout Virginia, approximately 36% of auto accident fatalities involve a drunk driver.
Nationally, drunk drivers cause more than 13,000 deaths a year. As personal injury lawyers in Charlottesville, we handle injury cases caused by the drunk driver and use every tool available to us under the law to help the injury victim. In the usual personal injury case, the injury victim can only recover compensatory damages, namely medical bills, lost wages and pain and suffering. But in cases where the car accident was caused by a drunk driver, the injury victim can recover punitive damages if the drunk driver’s conduct was willful or wanton and amounts to a conscious disregard for the rights of the injured person. Punitive damages are limited in Virginia to $350,000.00, but an award of punitive damages is supposed to punish the drunk driver and serve as a lesson.
If you or a family member is the victim in a drunk driving accident in Charlottesville, Augusta County, Waynesboro, or central Virginia, please contact us to see how we can help. We offer a free consultation and we will let you know how you can hold a drunk driver responsible for the harm caused by their conduct.
The Virginia General Assembly has cracked down on drunk drivers. How has the legislature helped persons injured by intoxicated drivers? In the ordinary personal injury case, a plaintiff may recover only “compensatory” damages to cover his medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. Since 1994, however, state law has also allowed statutory punitive damage awards if a plaintiff can prove a drunk driver’s conduct was so willful or wanton as to show a conscious disregard for the rights of others.
What is the purpose of a punitive damage award?
A punitive damage award punishes the defendant and serves as a warning that society hopes will deter him and others who learn of it from a repetition of the same or similar wrongdoing. Our personal injury lawyers in Charlottesville have experience in handling cases involving punitive damages. We are prepared to put the substantial resources of our law firm to work in support of your claim for damages both compensatory and punitive.
How does the current law work?
Before 1994, it was rare for a driver with BAC levels of 0.15 and higher to be held accountable, in punitive damages, for the injuries he caused innocent victims. Today, pursuant to Va. Code § 8.01-44.5, a plaintiff may recover punitive damages against a drunk driver if he can prove the following:
- At the time of the accident the defendant driver had a blood alcohol concentration of 0.15 percent or more by weight and volume
- At the time of the accident the driver knew or should have known that his ability to operate a motor vehicle was or would be impaired if he became intoxicated
- The driver’s intoxication proximately caused plaintiff’s injury or death.
It is not always easy to prove these facts. Through interrogatories, depositions, document production, subpoenas, and other discovery, our personal injury lawyers will find and examine the facts in your case to determine if you have a case of punitive damages against the drunk driver who injured you through no fault of your own.
But remember, if the negligent drunk driver who caused your injuries did not have a BAC level of 0.15 or higher and you cannot prove a case for punitive damages, you may still have a claim for compensatory damages. Such damages may include a substantial monetary recovery for your injuries, medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering.
Let our lawyers evaluate the facts in your case and advise you about your legal alternatives. If you’ve been injured by a drunk driver, we know how to help, and we will.
You can collect for injuries. Call the personal injury law firm of Wilson & Hajek.
Personal injury lawyers in Charlottesville serving Augusta County, Waynesboro and all of central Virginia.