What are your rights when you’ve been injured by a drunk or drugged driver?

What are your rights when you’ve been injured by a drunk or drugged driver?

Drunk and drugged driving comes with a cost.  According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), “every two minutes, someone is injured in a drunk driving crash.”  If we break down those numbers even further, every fifty-one minutes someone is killed as a result of drunk driving.  These statistics by themselves are frightening.  Imagine if you or a loved one are the victim of one of these crashes.

Most people are aware that drunk driving has criminal penalties.  These penalties exist whether or not the drunk driver injured someone else with his or her decision.  But, what about the victims of drunk drivers?  Criminal charges don’t put victims back together.

How does Virginia law protect those injured by drunk or drugged drivers?

When you or a loved one is injured in a motor vehicle collision caused by a drunk or drugged driver, you may be entitled to not only compensatory damages, but punitive damages, as well.  Compensatory damages pay back the victim for medical expenses, pain, and suffering both past and present.  Punitive damages are designed to punish.

Virginia law allows a victim to recover against a defendant that “acted with malice” or with conduct so “willful or wanton [that it shows] a conscious disregard for the rights of others.”  Punitive damages may be awarded in a case where a drunk driver has caused death or injury and (1) the driver’s blood alcohol content (BAC) was more than 0.15, (2) the driver knew or should have known he or she would be impaired while driving, and (3) the intoxication caused the collision and injury.  A drunk driver cannot escape this penalty by simply refusing the breathalyzer test.

Punitive damages are designed to punish the defendant, and also to deter similar actions in the future.  If the drunk driver is a recurrent offender, the jury may be allowed to hear about each incident involving “similar conduct” by the defendant at trial, so that the jury can determine whether punitive damages are warranted in order to deter the driver from driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs in the future.

How can you help the fight against drunk or drugged driving?

  • Before drinking or taking other intoxicants, choose a sober friend as a designated driver.

  • Don’t let your friends drive impaired.

  • If you’ve been drinking or taking other intoxicants, call a taxi or ride service or sober friend.

Drunk and impaired driving is preventable.  But not everyone makes smart decisions.  If you’ve been injured because of someone who was driving under the influence, you may be entitled to compensation.  Call us at Allen, Allen, Allen & Allen to speak to an experienced attorney about protecting your rights.