Drunk driving continues to be a major problem in Virginia, accounting for about a third of all crash-related deaths across the state. A drunk driver’s judgment and response times are dulled and coordination is impaired, making it less likely that a driver will be able to respond to road hazards in time to avoid a crash. As a result, alcohol does not only increase the odds of an accident, it also makes the injuries in these accidents more severe.
Factors That Affect Compensation in a Drunk Driving Lawsuit
There are many ways that accident victims can take action against a drunk driver. Depending on the facts of the case, victims who have suffered significant injuries or even lost a family member due to an alcohol-related crash can punish the drunk driver financially to help ensure that he does not cause a similar accident in the future.
The following factors can greatly influence the outcome of your case:
- Extent of your injuries. Drunk drivers can be held liable for any payments a victim has been forced to make as a result of the accident. Called compensatory damages, these can include medical bills, lost time from work, lost employment opportunities, costs of nursing care or assistive devices, and the loss of a vehicle.
- Pain and suffering. Victims who have suffered severe trauma may be entitled to additional payments for therapy costs, compensation for scars and disfigurement, and future losses due to ongoing medical care or permanent disability.
- Death of a family member. Family members may pursue a wrongful death lawsuit if a relative was killed as a result of a drunk driving crash. In Virginia, wrongful death cases involving driver intoxication are automatically eligible for punitive damages.
- Dram shop laws. If the drunk driver was served too much alcohol at a bar or restaurant, the drinking establishment can be held liable for accident costs. Washington D.C. enforces dram shop laws, which allow victims to recover crash costs from a party that negligently served alcohol to patrons.
- BAC level. The legal blood alcohol content (BAC) limit is 0.08, but a driver could be held liable for a DUI with a BAC under 0.08 in some cases. Several state laws impose harsher penalties on impaired drivers, possibly influencing the amount of a victim’s recovery. If the driver is under 21, Virginia’s zero tolerance law prohibits any amount of alcohol in the driver’s system. In addition, a driver can be charged with a DUI if there is proof that he is under the influence of drugs. Finally, state law guarantees mandatory punitive damages for victims injured by a drunk driver with a BAC of .15% or higher.
- Prior convictions. State law allows victims to recover punitive damages if a drunk driver's conduct was willfully negligent. If a driver had previously driven under the influence, this can demonstrate a conscious disregard for others, allowing for higher damages. A driver with prior DUI convictions could even face jail time and driver's license revocation, as well as civil penalties.
- Evidence. Your accident case will ultimately rest on your ability to prove the extent of injury, damage, and negligence of all parties involved. Evidence may include medical records and police reports of the incident but also your attorney’s ability to show how each action directly contributed to the crash. Your legal advisor can help you demonstrate the extent of your suffering, as well as determine who is most at fault and how each party’s negligence played a role in your injuries.
When your life changes due to the negligence of a drunk driver, our Fairfax drunk driving injury attorneys can help you hold the driver accountable. We help you find answers and seek compensation following an accident. In personal injury cases, we represent clients on a contingency fee basis. If there is no recovery for the client, we do not charge legal fees. Contact us to schedule your free consultation.