There are few times when someone is so obviously a victim of someone else’s negligence as becoming a drunk-driving victim. Drunk drivers are responsible for about 34% of vehicle related fatalities. In 2013, 253 people were killed and 5,288 injured in alcohol-related accidents in Virginia. It would seem that these cases are very clear-cut as to the blame, but they can be complicated.
Punitive damages are a compensation awarded that is beyond money paid for medical expenses or lost wages, etc. A jury must find that the plaintiff was harmed by the intentional conduct or wanton neglect of the defendant. The intent behind a punitive damage award is both punishment and a warning for others that such conduct will not be tolerated.
Determining That the Defendant Showed a Conscious Disregard for Others
Drunk driving would seem to show that the defendant was not concerned about causing harm to others, but it must be proved. In general, the conduct of the defendant needs to meet the following criteria:
- The defendant had a blood alcohol concentration of at least 0.15%.
- The defendant knew, or should have known, that drinking would cause their driving to be impaired.
- The defendant’s intoxication has caused the injury or death of the drunk-driving victim.
What if the Defendant Refused the Blood Alcohol Content Test?
If the drunk driver refused the test, this does not mean that he or she cannot be held responsible for the consequences of driving while intoxicated. The standard of proof is similar to that required when the defendant did consent to the blood alcohol test.
- The defendant’s intoxication can be established by evidence about his or her conduct.
- The defendant had been drinking and should have known that his or her ability to drive was impaired.
- The defendant’s intoxication caused the injury or death.
Social attitudes toward drunk driving are having an effect. The number of alcohol-related deaths and injuries is declining, but even one death is still too many because, after all, drunk-driving accidents are 100% preventable.
If you have been victimized by a drunk driver, get the compensation that you deserve. Contact Dulaney, Lauer & Thomas LLP to schedule a free case evaluation and to discuss your legal options. After practicing law for decades, these attorneys know how overwhelming this type of accident can be. You didn’t ask for this to happen; they can help.
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