Speeding and drunk driving are being blamed for a single-vehicle accident that claimed the life of a pickup truck passenger in Wytheville, Virginia (VA), early the morning of December 14, 2014. The fatal single-vehicle crash occurred on westbound exit 73 from I-81, which leads to Route 11/Lee Highway. According to state police investigators, the driver lost control on the interstate ramp, which resulted in the pickup rolling over at least once before striking an embankment and coming to rest upright on the shoulder. The passenger died at the scene, and the driver suffered injuries serious enough to require hospital treatment.
Pickup trucks are particularly prone to flipping when they get struck from the side or run off the road. This creates special dangers for drivers and passengers, who often suffer traumatic brain injuries, neck injuries and crush injuries from the violence of the rollover and the collapse of the cab's roof. While news reports do not indicate what kind of injury proved fatal for the man in the Wytheville crash, it seems likely he would not have gotten hurt or killed had the woman behind the wheel of the pickup been both sober and observing the posted speed limit.
The at-fault driver now faces criminal charges. The family members of the deceased victim may also choose to seek compensation through a civil wrongful death lawsuit. If they do, they should consult with an experienced Virginia plaintiff's lawyer to determine if they can claim punitive damages. As the name implies, punitive damages represent a noncriminal, monetary punishment for reckless actions. Under state law, drunk driving that results in permanent disability or death can be found to reckless and merit the award of punitive damages by a judge or jury.