In Virginia, the law refers to drunk driving as driving while intoxicated (DWI) instead of driving under the influence (DUI). But lawyers use both terms interchangeably while referring to drunk driving incidents. Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol is among the leading causes of traffic accidents in Virginia. If you or anyone you know gets hit by a drunk driver, it would be best to hire an accident lawyer immediately.
What Amounts to Drunk Driving in Richmond, Virginia?
Virginia DWI laws prevent any driver from operating a motor vehicle in one or more of the following instances:
- While under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- When their blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is .08% or more
- When their blood contains .1 milligrams per liter or more of methamphetamine
- When they have a blood concentration of .02 milligrams per liter or more of cocaine
- When they have a blood concentration of .02 milligrams per liter or more of phencyclidine (PCP)
In either of the above cases, the law views the person as impaired as long as the ingested substance affects their cognitive ability. Note that the above applies to adults, those who are 21 years and above. For teenage drivers who are below that age, Virginia operates a zero-tolerance policy. Thus, a teen would be liable for damages in any drunk driving accident if they have up to .02% BAC or more. Commercial drivers must have a .04% BAC level.
Also, drunk drivers would face penalties even if they were not in transit at the time of their arrest. It means that a person sitting behind a car’s wheel in a stationary position with the key in ignition will be guilty of drunk driving.
What Are the Steps To Take After Getting Hit by a Drunk Driver?
When auto accidents happen due to impaired negligent drivers, there are steps accident victims must take to ensure they get fair compensation. Depending on the state of the person, an injury victim must:
1. Call 911
Most intoxicated people fail to remain at the accident scene, so it is up to you to call 911 and get help. While waiting for the first responders to arrive, check for injuries. Do this to rule out signs of catastrophic injuries or traumatic injuries. If the other driver remained after the vehicle collision, check for signs of impairment and suspicious behavior.
2. Gain Information
Asides from looking for signs of negligence, you should gather as much information as you can. Get witness statements and the at-fault driver’s contact and insurance details. If possible, take a photo of the crime scene. If it’s a hit-and-run accident, give the police a detailed account of how the crash occurred. All these will help you in your financial recovery against the negligent driver.
3. Seek Medical Treatment
Following drunk driving accidents, those involved sustain different injuries. If the wound is severe might not be able to return to their daily life immediately. Thus, it is vital to seek medical attention as soon as possible. Doing this will help you know the amount to a request for medical expenses in your accident claim. It would also prevent long-term defects, and in some cases, death.
4. Know the Facts
Don’t neglect to find out everything about the motor vehicle accident just because the insurance company said they would handle everything. Remember that insurance adjusters will do all they can to reduce your settlement or rob you of the maximum compensation. Therefore, go through your notes from the accident and the police report. Know the cost of treatment by keeping a receipt of medical bills and the extent of property damage.
5. Hire an Auto Accident Lawyer
After a drunk driving accident, the fault party faces criminal and civil actions. But it would help if you did not assume that you’ll get financial compensation because the negligent party received a criminal conviction. This is why it is vital to get legal representation. A personal injury lawyer will commence the claims process even while the criminal trial is ongoing to ensure the Statute of Limitations does not bar you.
Who Pays the Settlement Sum in Drunk Driving Accidents in Richmond?
The first thing to note here is that drivers don’t need to have motor vehicle insurance under Virginia laws. However, most drivers have auto insurance in case they get into a traffic collision. Hence, after an accident, you must find out if the at-fault party is insured or not. If they have insurance coverage, contact their insurer and demand compensation for your losses.
Generally, the settlement sum would cover economic damages, which includes:
- Lost income
- Medical costs
- Property damage
- Future medical expenses
- Lost earning capacity
- Out-of-pocket expenses
It would also cover non-economic damages, that is, losses that are not quantifiable. Examples are emotional distress, pain, and suffering, quality of life, and loss of consortium. If the insurance company fails to arrive at an acceptable settlement sum, the victim can file a personal injury lawsuit.
After the civil action, the court will award the two types of damages mentioned above. Also, the court will award punitive damages as drunk driving falls under gross negligence. The purpose of punitive damages is to deter other reckless drivers who breach their duty of care.
Lastly, where the fault party does not have auto insurance coverage, they will pay the settlement out-of-pocket. In this case, you need to contact a Richmond accident law firm to initiate the claims process. If the court rules in your favor, the uninsured driver will pay the judgment sum from their income without an insurance company’s input.
Does the Doctrine of Contributory Negligence Apply in Drunk Driving Accidents in Richmond?
In Richmond and other parts of the state of Virginia, the doctrine of contributory negligence plays a crucial role in personal injury claims. Virginia is one of the jurisdictions in the United States practicing pure contributory negligence. The latter means that victims cannot recover any damages if they have any fault.
It simply means that if you have only a 1% fault in a traffic accident, you won’t get compensation. Not even the most experienced attorney will be able to help you get a settlement. The law is the same in drunk driving accident cases. If there’s evidence that you contributed to the crash, you can’t claim against the drunk driver.
For instance, if you knowingly entered into a vehicle with an impaired driver and subsequently suffered an injury, the courts can’t help you. It’s the same if you were driving distracted or jaywalking and a drunk driver hits you. For these reasons, it is crucial to work with auto accident attorneys to prepare a strong defense against a contributory negligence assertion.
How Much Can I Get as Settlement in a Drunk Driving Accident?
Like in most personal injury claims, there is no fixed amount for drunk driving accident settlements. Several factors determine how much you’ll get, but you can ask for economic and non-economic damages. The financial compensation would cover all the money you spent, as well as physiological and emotional harm. There is also no fixed sum for punitive damages. Nevertheless, in Virginia, the maximum amount a victim would get is $350,000.
Drunk Driving Accident Attorneys at CAIL Personal Injury Law Firm Can Help You!
At CAIL Personal Injury Law Firm, our accident lawyers put your needs first. We understand how life-changing and traumatic a motor vehicle accident can be. Hence, we are committed to helping you get compensatory damages from the responsible party. We will handle the settlement negotiations while you focus on healing.
To us, our clients are more than figures but real people who deserve the best from us. From the moment you call till we arrive at a settlement, our legal team will be with you. Find out more about our services by scheduling a free consultation with us today.