What Happened: In October 2009, a drunk driver charged with her second DUI offense hit the car in which a 9-year-old child was a passenger. The child's mother was the driver of the struck car. After the collision, which occurred on Shore Drive in Virginia Beach, the woman at fault refused a blood alcohol test. Under Virginia (VA) law, refusal to submit to a sobriety test following a traffic accident made her insurance company responsible for any punitive damages awarded. Punitive damages are monies paid to the victim over and above the amount necessary to compensate a plaintiff for medical bills and injuries. Punitive damages are intended to punish the wrongdoer for his or her wilful and reckless conduct.
The boy suffered a concussion, which is a form of mild traumatic brain injury. Luckily, the headaches and other symptoms from the TBI only lasted a month. The young man's neck pain and facial abrasions also resolved. The medical treatment was limited to an urgent care facility, a couple of visits to the primary care physician, and some diagnostic testing of the head.
Key Legal Strategy: Our firm proved to the insurance company the likelihood of punitive damages based on Virginia law.
Result: A significant settlement was reached for a confidential amount. The amount was far greater than the best settlement that could have been reached if the defendant driver had not been driving while drunk. The monies awarded, after payment of medical bills, were invested in a structured settlement account that pays the child for a college fund plan with disbursements due in equal amounts on the child's 18th, 19th, 20th, and 21st birthdays. The child can use paid-out funds for college expenses or any other expenses. The structured settlement allows the money to grow tax-free with a highly rated insurance company.
All of the distributions were approved in a court hearing in the Circuit Court, before a judge and with approval of the child's mother and a guardian ad litem (e.g., a child advocate appointed by the court).
Court: Norfolk Circuit Court
Date: January 12, 2011
For the Plaintiff: John C., attorney; Kelly K. Farley and Alicia M. Rountree, staff