Have You Been Injured By a Drunk Driver? You May Need An Attorney
You may be entitled to punitive damages if you have been injured by a driver under the influence of drugs or alcohol. These are damages designed to punish the particular behavior that caused or contributed to the accident and your injuries. These are damages in addition to the damages you may receive for your injuries, medical bills, and lost wages.
Punitive damages give the courts an opportunity to send a message to the community that the conduct that caused harm will not be tolerated within the community. Proving that you are entitled to punitive damages can be difficult and the sooner your attorney gets involved, the better chance you will have for a successful claim.
There are more than 15,000 fatalities each year involving impaired drivers. In Virginia, more than 30% of all traffic fatalities are directly or indirectly related to alcohol. The Virginia General Assembly has passed laws designed to send a signal to drunk drivers and the insurance companies who insure them. In a normal personal injury case, the injured person may only recover “compensatory” damages to cover medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. If the at-fault driver is intoxicated, then the injured person may also (in some cases) receive punitive damages if they can prove that the drunk driver’s conduct was so willful and wanton as to show a conscious disregard for the rights of others.
The purpose of punitive damages is to deter certain types of conduct. Personal injury attorney Ed Meade has significant experience handling cases involving drunk drivers and punitive damages. Pursuant to Virginia Code Section 8.01-44.5, an injured person may recover punitive damages against a drunk driver if he can prove that:
- At the time of the accident, the defendant had a blood alcohol concentration of .15 percent or more by weight and volume; and
- At the time of the accident, the defendant knew or should have known that his ability to operate a motor vehicle was or would be impaired if he became intoxicated; and
- The defendant’s intoxication was a proximate cause of the plaintiff’s injury or death
It is not easy to prove all of these things. It is frequently necessary to hire an expert toxicologist in order to prove the extent to which the defendant was intoxicated. A well-trained expert can help establish entitlement to punitive damages and can be well worth the expense.
Going up against insurance company lawyers and experts who will say and do anything in order to save the insurance company money is never easy. Personal injury attorney Ed Meade works with experts in order to prove his cases on liability and damages. And remember, even if the drunk driver who caused your injuries did not have a blood alcohol concentration of .15 or higher, you may still have a claim for compensatory damages. A compensatory damages award may still include a recovery for your injuries, medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
If you or a loved one has been injured by a drunk driver, please call today in order to schedule a free personal injury case evaluation. We want to help. (804) 377-2273.