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When Punitive Damages May Be Recovered in a Virginia Beach Car Accident Case

You are traveling on Interstate 264 (I-264) headed towards the Virginia Beach oceanfront. A speeding drunk driver fails to see your vehicle in their blind spot and side swipes you. Your vehicle is totaled and you suffered extensive physical injuries. 

In the accident described above, and in other serious auto accidents, you can pursue financial restitution for your harms and losses. This financial restitution is known as damages. There are two types of damages: economic and non-economic. Economic damages include tangible, itemized expenses incurred as a result of the accident. For example, medical bills and lost wages are economic damages. For intangible harms such as missing an important family occassion due to your injuries and having to endure blinding headaches in the middle of the night, you can pursue non-economic damages.

Related Information:

Punitive Damages = Punishment Damages 

In addition to economic and non-economic damages, you may also be able to pursue punitive damages as an additional form of compensation. But keep in mind, punitive damages are limited to specific circumstances. For example, if the defendant’s conduct was outrageous and could be viewed as reckless and wanton negligence. A punitive damage award to an injured party is meant to send a clear message and deter the defendant (and other drivers) from repeating their irresponsible behavior.

Drunk Driving Car Accidents and Punitive Damages

If you are injured by a drunk driver, it may be possible for your Virginia Beach car accident lawyer to pursue punitive damages. According to Virginia Code § 8.01-44.5, to prove that the defendant’s actions were willful or wanton, the following must be proven:

  1. The driver’s blood alcohol level was .15 or higher; 
  2. At the time the driver began drinking alcohol or during the time they were drinking alcohol, they knew or should have known they would have to operate a vehicle; and
  3. The driver’s intoxication was the proximate cause of your injury.

Track Record of Success in Major Car Accident Cases and Getting Punitive Damages

Our law firm holds nothing back when we represent a client who suffered a serious injury from the reckless actions of a drunk driver. For example, firm attorney Ed Booth represented a middle school teacher who had her life turned upside down by an intoxicated driver in Newport News, Virginia. The drunk driver crossed the double yellow line and slammed head-on into our client's vehicle. Both vehicles were totaled and our client suffered debilitating physical injuries such as anoxic brain damage, multiple broken bones, a collapsed lung, traumatic pancreatitis, respiratory failure, hemorrhagic shock, and internal bleeding. She had to undergo 16 surgeries and could not even walk for three months. Ed recognized that the reckless actions of the drunk driver were reprehensible and punitive damages needed to be pursued. Ed convinced a jury to award $1 million in punitive damages to our client. Learn more about this drunk driving personal injury jury verdict here.


Richard N. Shapiro
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Personal Injury & Wrongful Death Lawyer Serving Va Beach, Norfolk, Chesapeake & all of Virginia