Drunk driving is still a serious issue in Virginia. According to the DMV, 32% of all traffic fatalities in Virginia in 2019 were alcohol related. That means 264 out of 827 fatalities were alcohol related. In total, 18,648 people were convicted of DUI in Virginia.
There’s still a high risk of being a victim of a negligent drunk driver. Across the U.S, 28 people die in drunk driving crashes every day. That’s one accident every 51 minutes.
It’s important to understand what to do after you’ve been involved in a drunk driving accident. Virginia has specific laws against driving under the influence. Your knowledge of them could help you pay for car repairs and medical bills in the event of a serious accident.
Virginia’s DUI Laws
Like in most states, you are considered driving under the influence in Virginia if your Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) is .08% or higher. If you are under the age of 21, then you can still be convicted of a DUI even if your BAC is lower than .08% due to the state’s zero-tolerance law.
A DUI charge is taken very seriously in Virginia. If convicted of a DUI, you can face many penalties depending on how many convictions you’ve had in the past. These include:
• Mandatory fines running from $250 – $1,000
• Revoking your driver’s license for multiple years
• Possible jail time or felony charges
• Taking an Alcohol Safety Action program
While these consequences are not as serious for a first-time offender, you can still be taken to court if your drunk driving causes an accident. That’s why it’s best to never drink and drive in the state of Virginia.
What to Do Immediately After an Accident
While you may take every precaution when driving, you can’t always account for other drivers. Their impaired driving ability makes it difficult to predict their movements, making an auto accident more likely.
In the unfortunate event that you are involved in an accident with a drunk driver, there are a few important steps to take. Car accidents are stressful enough, but these steps can help you gather your thoughts and protect yourself from insurance companies and legal action.
• Make sure everyone involved is okay
• Move your vehicles out of the flow of traffic if possible
• Call the police and an ambulance if needed
• Exchange insurance and car information with everyone involved
• Try to get witness testimony
• Give as many details as possible to the police, including specific behavior from the drunk driver
• Remain calm and collected. Do not fight with the other parties involved.
By staying calm and working with the police, you can perform your due diligence. This way, you can begin to build your case against the drunk driver and receive compensation for damages from your insurance company. The information you gather here will form the foundation of your argument should you go to court.
What to Do the Next Day
Once you’ve had a day or two to recover from the accident, there are further steps you should take:
• Report the accident to your insurance company ASAP: By filing a claim with your insurance company, you can begin the proper steps to receive your compensation. From here the insurance company will speak with the other driver’s insurance.
• See a doctor for possible injuries: While you might feel fine, there’s always a chance that an injury could appear long after your accident if left untreated. Be sure to keep any medical records or bills to prove any injuries you’ve sustained.
• Meet with a car accident attorney: Depending on the severity of the accident, you could be entitled to compensation for your damages. This would be the time to meet with a car accident attorney to discuss your case and plan your next move.
Your Legal Options in Virginia
Now that you’ve taken the proper steps to report the accident and build your case, it’s time to consider your next steps.
Your insurance will offer you a settlement to cover your damages, like car repairs and medical bills. This is your safest option, and many people will take the first offer. If you believe you have a strong case against the drunk driver, then it’s advisable to wait for a higher settlement.
If you have a strong case, you can take your drunk driving accident to civil court. Virginia’s Punitive Damage laws show how seriously the state considers drunk driving. If a driver is convicted of personal liability, they are required to pay for your damages.
If the court allots punitive damages, the driver may have to pay further costs exceeding your medical bills or car repairs. This is only in certain cases, such as:
• Causing an accident while having a BAC of 0.15% or higher,
• Driving a vehicle knowing alcohol would impair their ability
• The driver’s intoxication is the main cause for injury or death of the victim
Pure Contributory Negligence
While Virginia does punish drunk driving, the state’s laws also require a significant amount of evidence. This is due to the state’s contributory negligence laws.
The law states that you cannot receive compensation for damages if you were partially responsible for the accident. That means that Virginia will only assign damages if one party is exclusively at fault.
This is what makes pursuing a civil case difficult and why it is important to consult an attorney who specializes in personal injury cases.
Contributory negligence can include:
• Being in the car with a drunk driver and becoming injured in an accident
• Driving while under the influence yourself
• Driving or walking while distracted
Consult a Virginia Attorney
Whether you have a seemingly open and shut case, or you’re unsure if you can receive compensation for damages, you should consult a lawyer after your accident.
An experienced and skilled auto accident attorney will have the knowledge to provide you the best advice on how to handle your case. Drunk driving accidents can be severe, and you deserve compensation for any damages you or a loved one has sustained.
Call Epperly & Follis
If you live in the Richmond, VA area, you should schedule a free consultation with the personal injury attorneys at Epperly and Follis. With decades of experience, we will sit down with you and listen to your specific case. We’ll create a plan with you that gives you the best chance of recovering from this horrible accident.
Contact us to schedule your consultation for your drunk driving accident case.