Bad Conduct By a Drunk Driver After an Accident Can Impact a Pay Out
By John Cooper, Virginia Injury Lawyer
As a Virginia personal injury attorney, I am sometimes asked if bad conduct after a crash can have an impact on damages. It certainly can in the case of a crash caused by a drunk driver.
I make sure each year to know what cases have been ruled on in my area of automobile accident law and to follow what happens in the Virginia General Assembly and know what new laws were passed there as well. One interesting development in the recent session was that a law was passed clarifying that in deciding how much to award as far as punitive damages a judge or jury should be entitled to consider bad actions after the original crash. Punitive damages are additional damages that are intended to punish a drunk driver.
For instance, let's say that you are hurt in a crash caused by a person who is intoxicated over the legal limit in Virginia of 0.08 percent blood alcohol in their system. There may be punitive damages awardable in the case of a drunk driver causing injury. Punitive damages are those monies beyond what's necessary to compensate you for your medical bills, lost wages and pain and suffering and are intended to make an example of the defendant and deter them from driving drunk again in the future. It's essentially extra money to bring home the point that this conduct was extremely bad and showed a conscious disregard for the rights of others.
By statute in Virginia, if the defendant causing the wreck had a blood/alcohol content over 0.15 at the time of the wreck then there's a nearly automatic right to get punitive damages. However what happens if the drunk driver goes to the Virginia Alcohol Safety Program after the crash with injuries and flunks out of the course that he was ordered to go to by court, because he refused to participate. Or even worse, what if the drunk driver after causing you an injury on the road while intoxicated does the same thing to another person afterward?
The law used to be a bit unclear on whether in the court case against the drunk driver, you and I as your attorney, would be able to point out that he had gotten a second drunk driving conviction for an injury and accident or that he had completely failed to honor his obligation to go to VASP.
Now, because of a clarification in the law, there's no question that the at-fault driver in a DUI can be held accountable for his or her actions after the moment of impact with you if their subsequent conduct shows a continuing conscious disregard for the safety and rights of other people to be free from harm from drunk drivers. As an experienced personal injury attorney specializing in automobile crashes I am glad that I'm armed with this knowledge because now I know how to do an even better job for my clients in getting everything they're entitled to if they are hurt in this kind of a scenario.
For more details about drunk driving in Virginia, see the DMV website. If you have been injured by a drunk driver, or if a family member has lost their life, call us at (757) 455-0077 for a free consultation.