Virginia Beach Drunk Driving Crash Victim Receives Punitive Damages Payment | Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp

What Happened

Our Virginia car accident law firm client was a college student in her early 20s when a drunk driver hit the vehicle in which she was riding as a passenger. Blood alcohol concentration tests performed shortly after the crash in Virginia Beach showed the at-fault driver to have a BAC of .17, or more than twice the legal limit for drivers in Virginia.

The collision left our client with connective tissue injuries along her spine. She received treatment from her family physician, an orthopedist and physical therapists. Fortunately, the medical care benefited her, and she made a fairly good recovery.


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Key Legal Strategy

The injured college student hired our Virginia car accident attorney because the at-fault drunk driver’s insurance company refused to offer a fair settlement for her claims.

The young woman’s medical bills totaled approximately $3,000, but she believed she deserved greater compensation because the driver who hit and hurt her had acted recklessly and driven under the influence of alcohol.

Virginia law agrees. The state code authorizes DUI crash victims to claim punitive damages that serve as noncriminal fines for recklessly harming another person. Specifically, a drunk driver who registers a BAC of .15 or greater becomes liable for paying punitive damages.

Our Virginia car accident attorney sued the drunk driver’s insurance company and hired a toxicologist to write a report on how a BAC of .17 would affect a person’s ability to drive. The expert concluded that such a high degree of intoxication would render nearly every person incapable of operating a motor vehicle safely.

The civil lawsuit, the letter of the law and our expert testimony convinced the insurance company to enter into settlement negotiations. Shortly before trial, the injured college student accepted a $19,000 payment for all claims, including medical costs and punitive damages.

Auto insurance companies use many strategies to avoid paying fair settlements to car accident victims. As this case showed, insurers will sometimes even try to ignore the law regarding punitive damages for extremely intoxicated drivers. Our Virginia personal injury attorneys always fight to hold insurance companies to their legal obligations.

Court & Date: Virginia Beach Circuit Court, VA, May 2005

Staff: Staff attorney