Injured by a Drunk Driver in Virginia Who Refused to Blow?
In order to punish drunk drivers, Virginia has a law on its books that permits the award of punitive damages to those injured by intoxicated motorists. These statutory punitive (additional) damages claims can be awarded if, among other things, it is proven that the drunk driver had a blood alcohol content, also known as a BAC, of 0.15 or greater.
But what happens if the drunk driver who injured you, or killed a family member, refused to blow or provide a blood sample to the police officer? Are you unable to make a punitive damages claim because you have no evidence the intoxicated driver had a BAC of 0.15 or greater? No, not necessarily. In fact, you may have a stronger case.
The law also permits a punitive damages claim if, among other things, it is proven that the intoxicated driver unreasonably refused to cooperate with the police officer’s attempt to administer a blood or breath test to determine blood alcohol levels. This part of the law allows us to hold drunk drivers accountable even when they try to conceal their intoxication by unreasonably refusing.
How it is that an unreasonable refusal to consent to a breath or blood test possibly helpful to a punitive damages claim? Remember, in order to trigger a possible statutory punitive damages claim, it must be established the intoxicated driver has a 0.15 BAC at the time of the accident.
However, the legal limit is merely 0.08. An intoxicated driver under investigation for DUI is likely to be more immediately concerned with a driving under the influence charge , rather than a punitive damages lawsuit after a DUI. There are certainly instances in which a drunk driver who would have blown a 0.10 (which is above the legal limit, but below the statutory punitive damages threshold) will refuse a blood or breath test in an effort to avoid a DUI conviction. In this instance, the intoxicated driver just unwittingly exposed himself to a statutory punitive damages claim that would have otherwise been very difficult to pursue. This is an obviously just outcome. In this circumstance the driver is not only drunk, but he is also attempting to conceal his intoxication and should be punished.
There are other elements and evidence that must be proven and developed to successfully obtain a statutory punitive damages award following an injury or death caused by an intoxicated driver. Therefore, it is advisable to have an experienced personal injury lawyer working for you if you have been harmed by an intoxicated driver. If you have been injured, or a loved one killed, by an intoxicated driver, we encourage you to contact Cooper Hurley Injury Lawyers at 757.455.0077.