When a car crash occurs due to the reckless actions of another, such as drunk driving, the injured party may be eligible to recover compensation for all of their damages. Since a drunk driving accident involves criminal activity, there might be more damages available than in typical car accident cases. A skilled car crash lawyer could assist you in fighting for the full damages available in drunk driving accidents in Charlottesville.

What Types of Damages are Available in Drunk Driving Cases?

In cases where the plaintiff is hurt by a drunk driver, they are entitled to seek compensation for damages, just like in any other car accident case. The damages that all injured parties are entitled to seek include economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages have a specific monetary value. This could include all medical bills and lost wages. Non-economic damages include pain and suffering, mental anguish, inconvenience, any scarring or disfigurement, any associated humiliation, as well as loss of enjoyment of life.

Can the Injured Party Be Eligible To Recover Punitive Damages?

The Virginia code allows punitive damages if the plaintiff’s attorney can prove:

  • The intoxicated driver had a 0.15 BAC
  • They knew their ability to operate a vehicle would be impaired
  • Their intoxication was the cause of the injury

If these elements are present in the case, the injured victim may be able to request punitive damages from the courts.

Punitive Damages for a BAC Test of Less Than 0.15

You can seek punitive damages for drunk drivers with a BAC of less than 0.15, but it is difficult to prove. In order to be successful in this case, the victim’s attorney must rely on Virginia case law to prove eligibility for punitive damages. The lawyer must show that the drunk driver was maliciously trying to hurt the victim.

The attorney must try to prove that the defendant’s actions amounted to a willful and wanton disregard of the plaintiff’s rights. The jury can award punitive damages to deter the accident from happening again. If it is someone’s second or third driving under the influence (DUI) offense, it is more likely that a jury would award punitive damages because they continued to drive while intoxicated despite repeated punishments.

Punitive damages could also be awarded if the driver refused to give the breathalyzer or blood test. This prevents people from avoiding having to pay punitive damages due to the lack of BAC evidence.

Maximum Punitive Damages

Virginia law allows for only a maximum of $350,000 of punitive damages. It is also possible for the jury to hear about what assets the defendant has in order to determine what would be appropriate punitive damages. Monetary punitives will likely be applied differently for people depending on their financial situation. The courts will determine the acceptable amount to be awarded.

The Uncertainty of BAC Tests

Blood alcohol content (BAC) tests are not always accurate. There may be an extended period of time between the accident and the administering of the test, and someone’s BAC level can drop in that period. It is common to assume that someone’s BAC level at the time of the accident was at least the amount shown on the test, if not higher. Thus, a BAC of just below .15 might not necessarily clear them. Someone may have been drinking immediately before an accident, so their BAC test is higher than at the time of the accident.

In some instances, a car accident attorney could retain a toxicologist as an expert to help determine the BAC of the defendant at the time of the collision.  The expert can use the amount of time between to wreck and elimination rates to determine a range of the BAC at the of the collision.

Let a Local Attorney Help Determine the Types of Damages Available In a Charlottesville Drunk Driving Accident Case

If you or a loved one were injured in a crash involving an intoxicated motorist, seek help from a local attorney. An experienced car accident lawyer in your community could help navigate a lawsuit to seek as much compensation for damages as possible. Call The Warren Firm today to learn more about the damages available in drunk driving accidents in Charlottesville and to get started on your case.