Obtaining Compensation after a Drunk Driving Collision

Posted By Scott Barney
Obtaining Compensation after a Drunk Driving Collision

Sadly, drunk driving is common in Virginia. According to the Centers for Disease Control, over 250 people die each year from drunk driving collisions. Thousands more suffer an injury when an impaired driver slams into their vehicle or strikes them while walking. Alarmingly, around 1.4% of people freely admit that they drive after having too much to drink—and the true number is probably even higher.

Drunk driving is not only a crime in Virginia, but it is a civil wrong called a “tort.” At Barney Injury Law, we help injured victims get compensation when they have been injured by a negligent or reckless driver, including intoxicated drivers. Below, our Virginia Beach car accident lawyer highlights critical information that victims need to know.

Victims Can Sue for Compensation when Injured

Some crimes are also torts, which means that injured victims can sue the person who hurt them for compensation. Of course, the defendant does not go to jail if found guilty. Instead, the civil court system exists to help victims receive compensation to cover their losses when they are injured by a negligent driver.

Drunk driving qualifies as negligence or even recklessness, so motorists who drive while intoxicated are on the hook for compensation.

Victims Can Sue Regardless of what Happens in the Criminal Case

The civil court system is also independent of the criminal courts, so you can bring a civil case against the drunk driver regardless of what is going on in the criminal case. The prosecutor could dismiss the charges altogether and you will still have a viable civil action.

There is a simple reason for this: the standard of proof is lower in a civil case. To get a criminal conviction, the prosecutor needs to prove that the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. In a civil case, we only need to show that the defendant was liable for the accident based on a preponderance of the evidence. In other words, it must be “more likely than not” that the defendant is responsible for your injuries.

Of course, it is helpful if the criminal case goes forward and the defendant is convicted—it’s just not required for our purposes.

We Can Use Evidence from the Criminal Case

Some of the most helpful evidence includes:

  • Police testimony
  • Police reports
  • Witness testimony
  • Chemical tests that show the level of intoxication

To be successful in a civil trial, we need to show that the defendant did not operate their vehicle with reasonable care. We can use many different types of evidence, including your own testimony about what happened.

We Can Seek Punitive Damages

In a civil case, the purpose of compensation is to make the defendant whole. Our clients should not have to suffer financially because of someone else’s negligence. As a result, they can receive money to pay for medical care and car repairs, as well as money to replace lost wages. They should also receive some money to make up for the pain and suffering they have endured.

However, we can also make a claim for punitive damages in drunk driving cases. These damages are meant to punish the defendant for reprehensible conduct—in other words, they should have a deterrent effect.

Under Va. Code § 8.01-44.5, a victim can seek punitive damages when the defendant’s conduct has been so “willful and wanton” that it exhibits a complete disregard for the rights of others. Even better, the law defines what will qualify as “willful and wanton”: a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.15 or higher, so long as the defendant knew his ability to drive would be impaired and his intoxication caused your injuries.

The law also allows a victim to receive punitive even where a defendant refuses a breath test. If the refusal was unreasonable, and other factors apply, then we can seek punitive damages in those situations as well.

Punitive Damages Can Be Considerable

Generally, a jury will award whatever amount of punitive damages it collectively believes will deter future wrongdoing. That’s the purpose of punitive damages. Our injured clients receive punitive damages along with their compensatory ones.

However, Virginia has also capped punitive damages at $350,000. This is the maximum amount that a victim can receive. In many cases, a victim will receive less unless there has been serious bodily injury or death. Meet with a Virginia Beach car accident lawyer to review how much you might receive.

We Can Sue Drivers Impaired by Drugs, Too

Alcohol is not the only drug that can impair a motorist. Other drugs, like marijuana, can impede a driver’s vision, reflexes, and mental acuity. Consequently, drivers who are high are also a risk of colliding with a pedestrian or other motorist on the road.

Contact a Virginia Beach Car Accident Lawyer Today

Barney Injury Law has developed a record of success helping those injured in traffic accidents. For more information, call us to schedule your free consultation. We serve clients in Virginia Beach, Chesapeake and Norfolk, Virginia.

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About the Author:

Scott Barney

Senior Attorney Call Scott R. Barney in Virginia Beach, VA today for a free consultation about your civil case. CALL SCOTT NOW (757) 965-7200             Scott R. Barney, Esq., born and raised in Virginia, is a third generation VA attorney. He is a sole practitioner and has been practicing law in the Virginia Beach area for more than a decade.Scott R. Barney obtained his Bachelor of Science Degree in Business from the University of Maryland in 2002 and went on to Nova Southeastern University, Shepard Broad Law Center where he obtained his Juris Doctor in 2005.Scott R. Barney, Esq. has worked with law firms throughout Virginia Beach, VA and has a vast knowledge of the laws of the state for a variety of practice areas.With a primary focus on personal injury, DUI defense,  cases and general civil litigation, Scott R. Barney, Esq. is proud to offer his legal services as a sole practitioner where he can give personalized attention to each client, with more responsive service to best meet your needs.As a member of the Virginia State Bar, the US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, and the Virginia Trial Lawyers Association, Scott R. Barney, Esq. has the credentials and experience needed to represent you in Virginia Beach, VA.When Scott isn’t practicing law, he enjoys playing golf, hunting, fly fishing, and watching the Washington Redskins!Have a question or want to find out if you have a case? Give Scott R. Barney,... View full business profile here: Scott Barney