Drunk Driving and Punitive Damages in Virginia

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Drunk Driving and Punitive Damages in Virginia

Drunk driving in Virginia causes hundreds of deaths and thousands of injuries every year. People who end up hurt in wrecks caused by drunk drivers often feel the intoxicated driver has been punished too lightly by the criminal law. However, in certain circumstances, impaired drivers can be hit by punitive damages to punish them for driving drunk.

Punitive damages are additional damages intended to punish the most blatant drunk drivers. They are not available in every case.

At The Smith Law Center, we have successfully won punitive damages for clients in many cases. You should hire an experienced Virginia injury lawyer when serious damages are caused by a drunk driver.

How Many Deaths and Injuries Are Caused by Drunk Driving in Virginia?

According to Crash Facts published by Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles, drunk drivers caused 7,285 accidents in 2017. The study linked 248 deaths to drunk driving. Although this was a 5.3 percent decrease on 2016, about a third of all road deaths were caused by drunk drivers.

The figures reveal 4,430 people were injured as a result of intoxicated drivers. These included drivers, passengers, cyclists or pedestrians.

Arrests of intoxicated drivers led to 18,701 DUI convictions. Men are more likely to be convicted of drunk driving than women. Almost 70 percent of DUI convictions were male.

Are Drunk Driving Crashes More Likely to Involve One or More Vehicles?

About 70 percent of all alcohol-related deaths in Virginia occur in single-vehicle crashes. Often a drunk driver veers off the highway and hits a tree or another obstacle. In many cases, passengers pay for the driver’s behavior with their lives. The family of a passenger who died in a DUI crash has grounds to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the intoxicated driver.

 How Many Drunk Driving Crashes Take Place in Hampton?

The City of Hampton recorded 136 drunk driving crashes in 2017. One fatality was caused by a drunk driver and 103 people were injured. Newport News recorded 186 DUI crashes. Six people died in 2017 and 143 people were injured due to the actions of impaired drivers.

 What Are Punitive Damages in Virginia?

If you have been injured by a drunk driver in Virginia, you may be entitled to full and fair compensation for your injuries. However, you may be entitled to more.

Under Virginia code, a court may award punitive damages “ if the evidence proves that the defendant acted with malice toward the plaintiff or the defendant’s conduct was so willful or wanton as to show a conscious disregard for the rights of others.”

Punitive damages may be awarded under the following circumstances:

·       A driver’s conduct is deemed sufficiently willful or wanton as to show a conscious disregard for the rights of others when the evidence proves the driver 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.

·       At the time the at-fault driver started drinking alcohol, or during the time he was drinking alcohol, he knew or should have been aware that his ability to operate a motor vehicle, engine or train would be impaired by alcohol:

·       The defendant’s intoxication was a proximate cause of the injury to or death of another person.

·       The driver refused to take a breath test.

In some cases, outrageous behavior by a drunk driver can lead to an award of punitive damages. An example might be a driver who drives drunk for more than a mile in the wrong direction.

How Much Can Be Awarded in Punitive Damages in Virginia?

Virginia limits the amount of punitive damages in a drunk driving case or another type of action. Under Virginia code, the maximum recovery for punitive damages is $350,000.

However, this sum is in addition to the compensation the victim of a DUI car crash, or the victim’s family in the case of a death is entitled to.

If a jury returns a verdict for punitive damages above the maximum amount specified by law, the judge will reduce the award to the maximum allowable under the statute.

 Talk to an Experienced Virginia DUI Accident Lawyer

If you have been injured by a drunk driver or lost a loved one, you will likely face massive challenges. Filing a lawsuit against a drunk driver can be difficult. Our veteran personal injury lawyers have litigated drunk driving cases for decades. Please call us today for a free and confidential consultation at (757) 244-7000.