If you were hit and hurt by a drunk driver your career and health may be on the line. Not many injured drivers and passengers realize you can secure extra money after a Virginia DUI accident in some circumstances.
Punitive or additional damages are intended to punish the drunk driver for his or her actions. They are not available in every DUI personal injury case.
The criteria for claiming punitive damages from a drunk driver is set out in Virginia Code Section 8.01-44.5. You may be able to secure extra money after a Virginia DUI accident when the defendant’s conduct is sufficiently willful or wanton and the drunk driver had a blood alcohol concentration of 0.15 percent or more or refused to take a breath test.
In Virginia, drivers found to have a blood/alcohol content of 0.08 or more can be charged with Driving Under the Influence (DUI).
The punitive damages law was enacted to send a powerful message to drunk drivers and to help victims further. Every year, approximately a third of all fatal deaths in the Commonwealth are linked to intoxicated driving. Alcohol was a factor in 32 percent of all fatal crashes in Virginia in 2015.
In Virginia, you can recover damages after crashes caused by drunk drivers for the following areas:
Lost ability to work
Emotional and physical pain and suffering
Court Considered Extra Money After a Virginia DUI Crash
The issue of extra money after a Virginia DUI crash was considered in the 2014 case of Coalson v Canchola.
This important case considered whether motorists who were not seriously injured can recover substantial punitive damages.
A driver’s vehicle was hit in Fairfax County in northern Virginia by a drunk driver who was talking on his cellphone at the time of the impact.
The victim suffered minor injuries in the crash. The drunk driver’s blood-alcohol content was almost twice the legal limit at the time of the crash, meaning the plaintiff was eligible for punitive damages.
A jury in Fairfax County awarded the plaintiff $5,600 in compensation and $100,000 in punitive damages. However, Judge Bruce D. White in Fairfax Circuit Court, reduced Victoria Coalson’s punitive damages award, saying the ratio between compensatory and punitive damages was too high.
The decision was appealed and the $100,000 punitive damages award was reinstated. The jury decided the determination of extra money after a Virginia DUI accident “must be based on the facts and circumstances of each case.” In the Coalson case, the award was justified.
The case found a driver or a passenger who suffers light injuries may receive considerably higher punitive damages when the at-fault driver’s conduct is sufficiently willful or wanton.
In Fairfax County, the drunk driver was driving without a license and his license was revoked due to previous DUIs.
On the day of the accident, he drove drunk on multiple occasions. He ignored a police officer’s warning not to drive and deceived his girlfriend. He fled from the accident scene.
The Coalson case is important for anyone who is hit and hurt by a drunk driver. Even if they do not end up seriously injured they may secure extra money after a Virginia DUI if the intoxicated driver was blatant in his disregard for the law and considerably over the limit to secure a DUI conviction.
At Cooper Hurley Injury Lawyers we fight drunk drivers. We never defend them. Call our Virginia drunk driver injury lawyers at (757) 455-0077.