Drivers who operate their vehicles while drunk put themselves and everyone else on the road at risk. When those dangerous choices lead to crashes, drunk drivers need to be held accountable for the damage that their recklessness has caused. If you’ve been hurt by an intoxicated motorist, a Virginia drunk driving accident lawyer from Arrington Schelin can fight for the financial recovery and the justice you deserve.
With more than 40 years of experience representing victims of motor vehicle accidents, the legal team at Arrington Schelin has been a proven advocate for generations of Virginians. To learn how we can help you, contact our firm today for a free, no-obligation consultation with a Virginia drunk driving accident lawyer.
How a Lawyer Can Help After a Drunk Driving Accident
If you have been hurt in an accident caused by a drunk driver, you should not try to handle a personal injury claim on your own. Let a lawyer from Arrington Schelin help by:
- Investigating the accident, including preserving evidence from the scene, having the vehicles examined, and securing police accident reports and criminal records
- Explaining your legal rights and options and helping you understand what to expect during the claims process
- Documenting your medical expenses, lost wages, and other personal losses that you have suffered from the accident
- Preparing an effective, persuasive case on your behalf, including by consulting with accident reconstruction specialists or medical experts if needed
- Filing your claim with the at-fault driver and the insurance company, and handling negotiations toward a settlement that pays you fair and full compensation
- Taking your case to court if the driver or insurance company won’t agree to a fair settlement, and tirelessly pursuing a verdict in your favor
What Damages Can You Seek as a DUI Victim?
If you have been the victim of a motor vehicle crash caused by a drunk driver, you may be entitled to recover compensation for expenses and losses you have incurred. This could include payment for:
- Medical treatment of your injuries
- Home health services or long-term care necessitated by permanent disabilities
- Loss of wages or income if you miss work while recovering from the accident
- Lost earning potential and employment benefits if you are permanently prevented from gainful employment
- Repair costs for your vehicle or the replacement value of your car if it was totaled
- Pain and emotional suffering
- Loss of enjoyment or quality of life
Difference Between Criminal Charges and a Civil Case
DUI criminal cases and civil drunk driving accident claims have a few important differences. The state brings a criminal case against a drunk driver to hold them accountable for the damage they’ve done to society. An injury victim brings a civil claim against a drunk driver to hold them accountable for the damage they’ve done to the victim personally.
If a drunk driver is convicted of DUI, they can face criminal penalties that include jail or prison time and fines. Conversely, a civil drunk driving accident claim is intended to compensate injured victims for their losses.
Finally, DUI criminal cases and civil drunk driving accident cases have different standards of proof. A criminal case requires the state to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the driver operated their vehicle while intoxicated. But a civil case has a lower burden of proof, as an injured accident victim only needs to show that the driver’s intoxication caused the accident by a preponderance of the evidence, or a “more likely than not” standard.
How Long Do You Have to File a Drunk Driving Accident Claim?
Virginia’s statute of limitations on drunk driving accident claims gives you only two years to file a personal injury lawsuit against the intoxicated driver. If you file suit after the limitations period has run out, the court can permanently dismiss your case.
A lot of legal work goes into preparing a personal injury case. So the sooner you speak with a trusted Virginia drunk driving accident lawyer, the better off you will be.
Virginia Alcohol Laws
Under Virginia law, a person age 21 or older is considered to be driving under the influence of alcohol if they have a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08 percent. However, a driver can still be convicted of DUI with a BAC of less than 0.08 percent if their intoxication impairs their ability to safely drive a vehicle.
Drivers under 21 can be charged with DUI with a BAC as low as 0.02 percent.
A first-time conviction for DUI can result in jail time, a mandatory minimum $250 fine, a one-year suspension of driving privileges, and the requirement to install an ignition interlock device once driving privileges are restored. A second conviction for DUI comes with a three-year driver’s license suspension, a mandatory minimum $500 fine, up to a year of jail time, and — if the second offense happens within five years of a prior DUI offense — a mandatory minimum jail sentence of 20 days.
Injuries Caused by Drunk Driving Accidents
Injuries that commonly result from drunk driving accidents include:
- Broken bones
- Soft-tissue injuries such as ligament, tendon, and muscle tears
- Neck and back injuries
- Nerve damage
- Spinal cord injuries and paralysis
- Internal organ injuries and internal bleeding
- Burn or smoke inhalation injuries if the accident results in a fire
- Head and facial injuries, including eye injuries, vision loss, or hearing damage
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Lacerations, abrasions, and bruising
Virginia Drunk Driving Accident Statistics
The number of fatal drunk driving accidents in Virginia has decreased 37 percent over the last three decades, according to the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles. Still, the chances of being involved in an alcohol-related motor vehicle accident remain at around one in six over the course of a person’s lifetime.
In one recent year alone, 32 percent of all motor vehicle fatalities in Virginia were the result of accidents in which alcohol was involved. That same year, 18,648 people were convicted of DUI in Virginia. Across the U.S., an average of 28 people die every day in drunk driving accidents — which equates to one alcohol-related traffic death every 51 minutes.
Drunk Driving Accident FAQs
Drunk Driving Accident
In some states, dram shop liability laws hold that an establishment is liable for a drunk driving accident if it served alcohol to a visibly intoxicated customer who subsequently caused the crash. Virginia remains one of the few states that does not have a dram shop liability statute on the books. Courts in Virginia also continue to decline to impose common law liability upon bars, restaurants, or other establishments that serve alcohol to a visibly intoxicated person who later causes a drunk driving accident.
If you are injured in a drunk driving accident and later discover that the drunk driver didn’t have the auto liability insurance required by Virginia law, you may be entitled to turn to your own uninsured motorist coverage. All auto insurance policies issued in Virginia are required to include uninsured motorist coverage in an amount equal to at least the minimum liability coverage limits required by law.
You can pursue an insurance claim or a lawsuit against the drunk driver who injured you before the driver’s criminal DUI case is finished. However, depending on the circumstances of your case, you may benefit from waiting until the other driver is convicted for DUI. With a DUI conviction, the driver’s intoxication at the time of the accident becomes a legal fact. In addition, a DUI conviction may allow you to argue that the other driver’s negligence should be presumed because they were breaking the law at the time of the accident.
Talk to a Virginia Drunk Driving Accident Attorney Now
If you have been the victim of an accident caused by an intoxicated driver, contact us online or call Arrington Schelin today for a free initial case evaluation. One of our Virginia drunk driving accident attorneys will explain your legal rights and options for holding the intoxicated driver accountable.
Let us help you fight for the financial compensation and justice you deserve. We represent drunk driving accident victims in Bristol, Marion, Norton, Abingdon, Tazewell, Wise, Lebanon, Grundy, and throughout Southwest Virginia and East Tennessee.