Despite campaigns to reduce alcohol-related crashes, drunk driving is a persistent problem. Every year millions of people choose to drive while under the influence of alcohol, sometimes with tragic results.
The statistics are grim. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 29 people in the U.S. die every day in alcohol-related motor vehicle accidents. This is one death every 50 minutes.
Virginia has severe criminal penalties for drunk driving. And yet, alcohol is a significant contributing factor to motor vehicle accidents. In 2018 there were 248 alcohol-related traffic fatalities in Virginia, a staggering 12% increase from 2017.
Compensatory and punitive damages
Drunk driving victims are innocent bystanders who often suffer from significant emotional and financial consequences. Anyone hurt by a drunk driver has the right to expect compensation for their injuries.
Compensatory damages reimburse victims for economic and non-economic losses incurred from the accident. Some common types of compensatory damages include:
- Lost wages
- Property damage
- Pain and suffering
- Household expenses
- Transportation costs
- Loss of future earnings
- Medical bills, including future expenses
Along with compensatory damages, a court may award punitive damages. Punitive damages are not intended to compensate victims for their losses. Instead, the intent is to punish the driver and deter them from repeating the same behavior. The cap for punitive damages is $350,000.
Punitive damages may be awarded if it can be proven that the driver acted with malice or that their behavior amounted to a willful disregard for the rights of others. Elements factored into judgment include whether the driver refused to take a blood alcohol test or not, blood alcohol content and if the driver’s behavior was intentional, wanton or seriously reckless.
Regardless of campaigns and public service announcements, drinking and driving is still a public safety and health concern. If you are the victim of a drunk driving accident, you deserve full compensation for your economic and emotional suffering.