Punitive Damages in Virginia Beach Car Accident Cases
Punitive damages in Virginia Beach car accident cases are awarded in addition to any compensatory damages and are meant to punish extremely reckless behavior. These damages are most often associated with crashes caused by drunk drivers. A detail-oriented car accident lawyer can carefully examine the circumstances of your case to determine whether punitive damages may be appropriate. They can then advocate for you to get all the compensation you deserve.
When Do Punitive Damages Apply?
The negligent party must act willfully, wantonly, and with disregard for the safety of others for punitive damages to be awarded under Virginia personal injury law. The most common circumstances that result in punitive damages includes an accident involving a drunk driver. When a drunk driver causes an accident that injures someone and they have an aggravated blood alcohol content of 0.15 or higher, a statutory punitive damages claim could be made against the driver. An experienced personal injury lawyer who handles punitive damages cases may hire a toxicologist to help prove these cases.
The conduct of the driver may also influence the award of punitive damages. If a drunk driver makes excuses, does not accept responsibility, or was extremely drunk, that could factor into a jury’s consideration of the amount of punitive damages to award. Under the law in Virginia, a jury is allowed to also consider the subsequent conduct by a drunk driver. For example, if a drunk driver injures a person and has an aggravated BAC, a punitive damages claim could be made.
If the same driver gets another DUI, that is admissible as evidence and may be considered by the jury. An argument can be made that the drunk driver has not learned their lessons and that this is not an isolated incident. In this situation, it is important to get the driver’s attention by awarding significant punitive damages to punish them for their conduct, their failure to learn their lesson, and their failure to correct their behavior by continuing to drink and drive.
How Common Are They?
The award of punitive damages is entirely discretionary. A jury might decline to award punitive damages. However, drunk driving is a serious criminal offense and puts the public in danger. It is not unusual for a jury to award punitive damages against a drunk driver, especially one with an aggravated blood alcohol content. Insurance companies routinely offer more money on cases when their insured was drunk at the time of the accident because of their concern that a jury or a judge will award significant punitive damages.
Determining Compensation in Virginia Beach
The judge or jury awards the injured party compensatory damages for their bills, lost wages, pain, and trouble. They have the discretion to also award punitive damages. While the compensatory damages focus on the person’s injuries and their direct harms and losses, the punitive damages consider the egregious conduct of the at-fault driver.
There is no ratio for determining punitive damages in Virginia Beach. There are circumstances in which the punitive damage award is substantially larger than the compensatory damage award which could create grounds for the defense lawyer to challenge the amount of punitive damages. The courts have ruled in many circumstances that the punitive damages can be many times the size of the amount compensatory damages in a given case and this has been upheld by the Virginia Supreme Court.
How an Attorney Will Handle a Case
In the traditional personal injury claim, the injured person claims money for their medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. In some circumstances, a punitive damages claim could be made, so it is important for an attorney to monitor the DUI criminal investigation of the defendant. The car accident injury attorney can order transcripts of any criminal trials. They can obtain copies of all the toxicology reports to document and prove the blood alcohol content of the drunk driver to use in the civil personal injury case. In some situations, a lawyer will hire a toxicologist to help prove the case.
Finally, it is important to monitor the conduct of the drunk driver after the fact. If the driver does not take their treatment seriously, skips alcohol treatment classes, or is arrested for other alcohol violations, that is relevant evidence for a jury to consider to punish the driver.
Ask About Punitive Damages in Your Virginia Beach Car Accident Case
If a drunk or otherwise egregiously reckless driver caused your accident, you may be able to collect punitive damages in your Virginia Beach car accident case. To discuss your situation, call Cooper Hurley Injury Lawyers for a free consultation.