Our Virginia personal injury client lost his left leg below the knee when a young and inexperienced driver cut him off in traffic as he was riding his motorcycle. The amputation occurred at the scene of the accident, and there was little doubt that the other driver caused the crash that left our motorcycle accident client so severely injured.
The case was immediately complicated, however. A trauma nurse testified that she smelled alcohol on the motorcycle rider, and a blood test performed several hours after the wreck revealed a BAC of .05. Further, our client had his 13-year-old step-daughter on the back of his bike at the time of the collision.
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Key Legal Strategy
As Virginia personal injury attorneys, we pride ourselves on holding to our promise to never defend drunk or drugged drivers. We decided to take this case only after we gather enough evidence to conclude that our client was not intoxicated and had done nothing to cause the crash that left him with half a leg.
We first looked at the physical evidence from the crash scene. The collision happened on a sunny morning when the at-fault driver turned into the lane in front of our client. This caused our client to lay down his motorcycle rather than slam into the back of the other vehicle. No witnesses described the motorcyclist as doing anything wrong, and all the debris from the wreck came from his bike.
Convinced that our Virginia personal injury client would have a strong case against the other driver except for the possible alcohol use, we concentrated on showing that he would not have been impaired.
Emergency medical personnel and police found no alcohol containers at the scene, and no one except a nurse aboard the medevac helicopter transporting him to the hospital reported smelling alcohol. By the time a court-ordered blood sample was drawn, four hours had passed.
Virginia law only allows police to issue a charge for driving while impaired under certain circumstances. One is when the suspect registers a BAC of at least .08. The other is when the suspect registers a BAC and commits some other traffic violation. Since our client did nothing wrong, he could not be charged with DWI based solely on the .05 BAC.
Serious questions also existed regarding what that lab value indicated. The motorcycle rider lost a significant amount of blood when his leg was amputated. That sent him into shock and induced trauma-related anemia. All of those factors could affect his body’s ability to metabolize alcohol.
Our attorneys consulted with numerous toxicology experts, who all stated that given the blood loss, shock and delay in taking a testing sample, no definitive conclusions could be drawn regarding whether our client was impaired when the other driver caused him to crash.
As a final consideration, our attorneys pushed for mediation instead of a jury trial. The reality that our client had been drinking at some point prior to his accident and the fact that he was riding with his step-daughter as a passenger might lead some jurors to decide the case on their emotions rather than the facts we presented.
It took two years, but tough negotiations with the insurance company for the at-fault driver yielded a $450,000 settlement for our motorcycle accident client.
No Virginia car or motorcycle crash case is easy. In this instance, our personal injury lawyers had to overcome several unique challenges, but they succeeded in securing a fair insurance settlement without going to trial.
Court: Norfolk Circuit Court, Norfolk, VA
Staff: Two staff attorneys