Drunk Driving & Injury: Understanding Punitive Damages & More

Drunk Driving

Recently, we wrote a blog on DUI over the holidays and how you can stay safe. Today, we're expanding on that topic by looking at what happens if you, unfortunately, become involved in a drunk driving accident as either the plaintiff or defendant.

Understanding certain things, like how punitive damages work, can help you pursue an effective resolution in your case and reach an equitable outcome with the other party.

At The Law Offices of Daniel J. Miller, we help our clients navigate DUI cases. Contact us online or via phone at (757) 267-4949 to schedule a consultation with a member of our team.

What Are the Penalties for DUI in VA?

We've covered Virginia DUI penalties in-depth before on our site, but we'll give you a quick overview for easy access. If you're more interested in learning about the consequences of receiving a DUI in-depth, check out this blog we wrote on just that.

First-time DUI offenders can expect:

  • A mandatory, $250 minimum fine.
  • A one-year driver's license revocation.

Second-time DUI offenders can expect:

  • A mandatory $500 minimum fine.
  • A three-year driver's license revocation.
  • A possible one-year jail sentence.

Whether the offender has previous penalties, their Blood Alcohol Content (BAC), whether they caused damages or hurt another person, and their age can all impact the penalties for the DUI and how the court handles the case. For example, refusing a breath or blood test after being pulled over by a law enforcement officer can result in a three-year driver's license suspension after the second refusal.

What Is Punitive Damages? How Does it Work?

How harshly the Virginia legal system punishes DUI offenders depends on a variety of factors. For example, it's not uncommon for courts to offer plea deals to DUI offenders, particularly first-time or minor offenders. These please deals often involve certain conditions, such as reducing the sentence or jail time of a DUI offender as long as they take the necessary steps to correct their behavior and prevent further violations of the law in the future.

For individuals injured by a DUI, seeing an offender receive a plea deal and suffer little to no consequences can be frustrating, especially if the injured party suffered injuries that caused them to lose compensation due to work or changed their quality of life.

In situations where an injured party in a DUI case believes the offender owes them further compensation for their injuries or deserves harsher punishment, they may file a case for punitive damages.

Punitive damages are created as a sort of additional penalty for individuals or entities involved in personal injury cases. Under Virginia law, a personal injury claimant can seek punitive damages if the individual who harmed them committed a "willful and wanton conscious disregard for the rights of others."

For example, a DUI case where the offender knowingly consumed an unsafe amount of alcohol and then purposefully disregarded the advice of friends or bystanders to drive drunk may qualify for punitive damages.

As long as the personal injury claimant can prove that:

  • The DUI offender's BAC was over 0.15;
  • The DUI offender knew their ability to operate their vehicle was impaired, and;
  • The DUI offender was a proximate cause of the collision;

They can seek punitive damages against a drunk driver.

Personal injury claimants can receive a maximum of $350,000 in punitive damages in Virginia. At The Law Offices of Daniel J. Miller, we'll work with you to pursue punitive damages in your personal injury case and help you fight for the compensation you deserve.

To schedule a consultation with our team and learn more about our services, contact us online or via phone at (757) 267-4949.

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