A Virginia man who was severely intoxicated hit and killed a woman in College Park, Maryland on July 6. Around 3 a.m., the victim was crossing Baltimore Avenue near the University of Maryland Campus when the 33-year-old male driver struck her with a minivan.
The victim died at the accident scene. She was only 21-years-old.
The driver fled the scene, but police identified and arrested him soon after the accident. The driver’s blood alcohol content (BAC) was two times the legal limit. The driver has been charged in Maryland with 13 crimes, including negligent homicide by automobile while under the influence.
I send my deepest condolences to the young woman’s family; the loss of a loved one in such a devastating manner causes deep and lasting sorrow. I wish them as much comfort as possible in their time of grief.
No amount of money can bring back a loved one, but the beneficiaries may have the right to pursue damages through a wrongful death action for the pain this driver caused. The victim’s family faces costs like funeral and burial expenses, but more than that they face a lifetime without her. A successful wrongful death claim can provide compensation for specific expenses related to the victim’s death. It can also compensate the beneficiaries for non-economic losses like pain and suffering, loss of companionship, and loss of care or assistance under some circumstances.
In extreme cases, beneficiaries may also be able to pursue punitive damages. Unlike compensatory damages, punitive damages are literally meant to punish the person for his actions and deter others from acting the same way. In Virginia, punitive damages are only available when a person’s conduct is willful or wanton and shows a conscious disregard for others. The Virginia punitive damages law states that a person who knows he is very intoxicated and gets behind the wheel anyway has displayed the kind of disregard for others that warrants punitive damages when his drunk driving results in someone’s injury or death.
If it turns out that the driver who hit and killed this young woman knew he had a high BAC when he got behind the wheel, he could be liable for both compensatory and punitive damages. While the family’s first priority should be grieving the loss of their loved one and trying to move forward, they should also contact a knowledgeable Virginia wrongful death attorney to discuss the possibility of pursuing a wrongful death action against the at-fault driver. For more information, see our firm’s legal guide to wrongful death actions.