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Richmond, Virginia

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Drunk Drivers Need to be Punished

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Today, while negotiating a personal injury claim with an insurance adjuster, I reminded the adjuster that his insured had been cited for fleeing from the scene and driving while intoxicated. Despite all this, the adjuster just laughed and commented that he did not think that that evidence would really matter to a jury. He stated that he was merely going to evaluate the claim based upon the bodily injury suffered by my client.

In Virginia, Code § 8.01-44.5 provides in part “The finder of fact may award exemplary damages to the plaintiff if the evidence proved that the defendant acted with malice.” “A defendant’s conduct shall be deemed sufficiently willful or wanton as to show a conscious disregard for the rights of others when the defendant had a blood alcohol concentration of .15 or at the time knew or should have known that his ability to operate a motor vehicle would be impaired.” In addition, when a defendant has unreasonably refused to submit to a test of his blood alcohol conduct, that conduct, under this code section, also allows a jury to make a determination of punishment damages.

In 2005, almost 17,000 Americans were killed in alcohol-related vehicle crashes. That equates to almost a death every 30 minutes. Sometimes I see representatives of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) sitting in the courtroom, to keep track to make sure justice is done in alcohol cases. It is their presence and spirit that helps hold these violators accountable.

My law firmwill continue to attempt to bring these cases to a jury, in the hope that justice will be done in the final verdict. This Virginia Code Section provides punishment to both the driver and the insured. It is up to the jury to exact that punishment so that this defendant driver and adjusters like this one, must pay attention to these claims.