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Outlining Drunk Driving Punitive Damages in Virginia

My hometown motivates me to work hard for my client and get results.- John Cooper

Attorney at Cooper Hurley Injury Lawyers

Outlining Drunk Driving Punitive Damages in Virginia

The normal damages in a personal injury case when you've been hurt by somebody else's negligence include medical bills, lost wages, and compensation for physical pain and mental anguish. Few people know that as well as these damages they may obtain drunk driving punitive damages.

The traditional types of damages are called compensatory damages by lawyers.  The idea is that these monies are given to you to compensate you for the harm caused by somebody else's carelessness in a situation like a car accident.  They're intended to make up for the harms and losses that were put upon the injured person because of a mistake made by another driver or a company operating a commercial vehicle.

Drunk Driving Punitive Damages in Virginia

drunk driving accidents

Punitive damages in Virginia are restricted to a relatively small amount of cases many of which involve drunk driving.  Drunk or drugged drivers present a real danger on the roads.  Although the DUI laws have curbed some of the excesses of people drinking alcohol and getting a wheel, unfortunately, folks still do it.

When a driver is impaired and causes a collision that results in personal injuries he or she may be responsible not only for the compensatory damages but also for what personal injury lawyers call punitive damages.

What Are Drunk Driving Punitive Damages in Virginia?

Punitive damages are expressly intended to punish the at‑fault person for their willful or malicious conduct.  Extreme recklessness like driving when intoxicated can fall under the kinds of situations in which a Virginia Court will allow punitive damages.

One important thing to know is that the standard automobile policy that we all have covers punitive damages.  So the same insurance company that will be responsible to pay any settlement or verdict up to the amount of insurance for compensatory damages is also on the hook for punitive damages in Virginia.

One bad thing about Virginia law is that punitive damages are restricted to $350,000.00 no matter how bad the conduct of the defendant.  This means that even a huge corporate defendant like Uber or UPS is only responsible for $350,000.00 maximum even if they left victim a quadriplegic and the driver was a known drunk who the company continued to put back on the road even knowing of their habit of drinking and driving.

This kind of a cap is, of course, unfair to consumers and the public.  However, the insurance companies and the forces of corporate lobbyist have gotten a number of laws like that on the books in Virginia which limit the exposure although it's unfair.

If you or a loved one has been hurt whether in a serious injury or even a more moderate one where the defendant was drunk that is a special kind of case that our injury lawyers take very seriously.  You can find out more about drunk drivers here on our website.

We love to sue drunk drivers.  Typically, in a case with the same injury if one of the two cases has a drunk driver we will be able to do better financially for our client because of the punitive damages aspect of the case.

There are certain elements necessary to prove an order to be entitled to punitive damages.  One key fact is whether the intoxicated driver refused to take the blood alcohol test or not.  If they did take the BAC test finding out through the court what the amount of alcohol was in the system of the drunk driver is key.

If the result is above-a .15 then Virginia law by statute makes it easier to get punitive damages.  There is still the issue of showing that the person who consumed alcohol and drove knew that they were doing something wrong at the time that they got behind the wheel.  However, being able to prove these elements of drunk driving punitive damages is what we do on a regular basis here at Cooper Hurley Injury Lawyers where we specialize in automobile accidents.

I certainly hope that you and your family are never harmed by a drunk driver.  But it does happen and can lead to some very tragic results.  If you have a question about an injury that was caused by the carelessness of a drunk driver it's definitely the kind of case where you should call an experienced personal injury attorney like those at Cooper Hurley Injury Lawyers at (757) 455-0077.

John Cooper

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John Cooper

John Cooper is a veteran of personal injury law practice in Virginia. A native Virginian, he was raised in Norfolk and Virginia Beach. He has more than 20 years of experience handling personal injury cases and recently handled the largest auto accident settlement in 2010, according to VA Lawyers Weekly. The award provided $3.5 million to a child whose young father died when the vehicle he was a passenger in was rear-ended by a careless truck driver.

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Jim Hurley

Jim Hurley has been practicing law throughout Virginia for more than two-and-a-half decades. During his career, he has tried more than 100 jury trials — a staggering number — and handled hundreds more that were settled out of court. He is guided by the principle that the client is in charge of his or her case and should be kept fully aware of the litigation process. Jim has been awarded an AV Rating by Martindale-Hubbell, the highest rating given, for his practice of law. He was named in Virginia Super Lawyers in 2014, 2015, 2016.

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Bill O’mara

Bill O’Mara started his legal career in 2008, moving back to his home town of Chesapeake, VA. He has practiced in the field of plaintiffs’ personal injury and other litigation. He has gained extensive court room and trial experience, including contested trials before judges and juries across Hampton Roads. In 2014, Mr. O’Mara joined Cooper Hurley Injury Lawyers as an associate attorney. He became a partner in 2017.

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