One Chesapeake high school senior died and another went to Sentara Norfolk General Hospital with critical injuries after a box truck hit their SUV head-on in rural southwestern Virginia Beach, VA, on the afternoon of May 19, 2017. The fatal collision happened in the 2400 block of Indian River Road between Princess Anne Road and West Beck Road.
The box truck driver survived with minor scrapes and bruises but now faces multiple felony charges for causing the fatal wreck. According to a press release from the Virginia Beach Police, he lost control of his delivery vehicle while rounding a sharp curve, ran off the road to his right, overcorrected his steering and crossed the double yellow center line of the two-lane state highway.
The commercial driver then fled the scene. He was taken into custody a few hours after the deadly head-on collision and charged with driving under the influence, felony hit and run, driving with a suspended license, involuntary manslaughter, and maiming of another resulting from driving while intoxicated.
That last charge, spelled out in section 18.2-51.4 of the Virginia Code of Laws, applies when “any person who, as a result of driving while intoxicated … in a manner so gross, wanton and culpable as to show a reckless disregard for human life, unintentionally causes the serious bodily injury of another person resulting in permanent and significant physical impairment.”
Virginia’s DWI manslaughter statute uses similar language regarding apparent intoxication and reckless behavior. The details that the intoxicated man who caused on Great Bridge High School senior’s death and left another possibly disabled for life tried to avoid responsibility by fleeing the scene makes the incident truly shocking.
Evidence that police collect to prove criminal recklessness can also be used to support civil lawsuits for a wrongful death and personal injuries. While it is too early for the parents of the teenagers victimized by the impaired and reckless box truck driver to think about such matters, they should know that they have ready legal allies in Virginia Beach-based wrongful death attorneys who make it their mission to hold drunk and drugged drivers accountable. In cases involving drunk or impaired driving, Virginia civil laws allow an injured person to bring a claim for punitive, or punishment, damages. The evidence of drunk driving must meet certain criteria, however. What is significant about these damages is they are not based on the injuries to the victim who was injured or killed. Punitive damages are assessed in addition to compensatory damages and are designed to punish the behavior of a drunk driver.
My law firm colleagues send our deepest condolences out to the family and friends of the high school student who lost her life. We also hope the injured SUV passenger makes a full and rapid recovery from this terrible, preventable accident.