The major difference in the DUI injury case in Virginia is that the injured party can seek punitive damages against the person that was driving drunk. Punitive damages are in addition to the compensatory damages that are available to the injured party in all Virginia injury cases.
The purpose of punitive damages are two-fold. The first purpose is to deter this type of action from the individual person in the future. The second purpose is to send a message to the community that this type of behavior will not be tolerated.
By Virginia statutory law, punitive damages can be sought if the defendant had a .15 BAC or greater. If the defendant has a lower BAC a claim can still be made for punitive damages under common law, which is the case law of Virginia.
Compensatory damages are the damages that you can claim in every Virginia personal injury case. Compensatory damages are different in a case involving injuries then those involved in a wrongful death case.
Because the jury will likely hear about the conduct of the defendant driving intoxicated at such a high blood alcohol content, they are likely to award higher compensatory damages even if they award a no punitive damages or a low punitive damage amount.
Often in personal injury cases there is not enough insurance to compensate the injured party. We often recommend settling cases for the insurance proceeds that are available because if we go to trial it will be expensive and there is a good chance that the defendant will file for bankruptcy. If the case involves the defendant driving drunk and causing a collision, then it is possible that he cannot discharge the verdict through bankruptcy.
There a few difference handling a Virginia personal injury or wrongful death case. The major one, as discussed is the ability to claim punitive damages. While those damages can be claimed, you must understand that juries do not always award them and they do not always award large punitive damages. A jury will take into consideration the defendants assets and what punishments the defendant has already received.
Changes of receiving punitive damages seem to increase if the defendant had previous DUI charges. I have seen juries award large sums for punitive damages and I have seen them award none, even thought the defendant was very intoxicated. As with all cases, the result of each case will depend on the specific facts and which jurors hear your case.