Drinking and Driving: A Killer on the Road – Part II

Every 51 minutes a drunk driver kills someone.

Drunk drivers are killing our children and their parents. Last year, 53 loved ones were killed in Virginia by drunk drivers. In Fairfax alone, drunk drivers killed 12 loved ones. Last year, over the 4th of July holiday, drunk drivers killed 11 loved ones in Virginia.

If you drink and drive and injure our client or kill our client’s loved ones, we will come after you.

The Tragedy of Wrongful Death Caused By A Drunk Driver

Steve, age 27, a devoted father of two young boys, was killed by a drunk driver in a car crash on I-395 near the Seminary Road exit in Alexandria.

The unexpected, preventable wrongful death of a loved one is every family’s worst nightmare. It is a tragedy that will change your life forever. Everything important has been taken away from you. Unfortunately, no one can bring your loved one back. But you can hold the drunk driver accountable by bringing a wrongful death claim against him.

Virginia Wrongful Death Claims

Virginia law gives family members the right to hold a drunk driver accountable for causing the wrongful death of a loved one. The law requires that the family prove that the drunk driver was negligent. A drunk driver is presumed negligent if his blood alcohol level is above the legal limit of 0.08%. A family member is usually appointed personal representative (administrator) who is authorized by Virginia law to bring the claim. The personal representative is, in effect, the trustee for the family members. At the conclusion of the case, the net settlement, or judgment, is distributed to family members who are designated “statutory beneficiaries.” The eligible beneficiaries are determined by Virginia statute (Virginia Code §8.01-53) – not by provisions of a will.

The Wrongful Death Recovery – Compensatory Damages

Virginia law allows the “statutory beneficiaries” to be compensated for their individual losses resulting from the death of their loved one, including:

  • sorrow (grief)
  • mental anguish
  • solace – loss of companionship,
  • guidance, advice, and comfort
  • economic losses
  • loss of assistance, services,
  • protection and care
  • medical and funeral expenses

Punitive Damages in Drunk Driving Cases for Personal Injury and Wrongful Death

In an effort to keep drunk drivers off the road, the Virginia legislature enacted what is called, “statutory punitive damages” (Virginia Code §8.01-44.5). This law allows a person injured or family members of a person killed by a drunk driver to hold the drunk driver accountable for punitive damages by showing that the drunk driver’s conduct was willful and wanton – a conscious disregard for the rights of others.

Virginia “statutory punitive damages” gives the jury the power to hold a drunk driver accountable for punitive damages payable to the victim or to the family members of the loved one killed by a drunk driver by proving the following three elements: (1) the drunk driver had a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.15 (0.08 is legally drunk); (2) the drunk driver knew, or should have known, when he was drinking or when he was driving a motor vehicle, that his ability to drive would be or was impaired; and (3) the drunk driver’s intoxication was a legal cause of the wrongful death to the victim.

In addition to “statutory punitive damages” against drunk drivers, the Supreme Court of Virginia has held that a victim of a drunk driver may recover “common law punitive damages” in cases where the drunk driver’s blood alcohol level is less than 0.15%, where the drunk driver’s conduct is willful and wanton and especially offensive.

We Go After Drunk Drivers Who Injure Our Client Or Kill Our Client’s Loved One

Gerald Schwartz is a Drunk Driving Victim’s Attorney with 30 years experience suing drunk drivers. Gerald Schwartz aggressively sues drunk drivers all across Northern Virginia. The Virginia Trial Lawyers Association has often asked him to teach other lawyers how to maximize recovery in drunk driver car accident cases.

Keep Drunk Drivers Off The Road

It is everyone’s responsibility to keep drunk drivers off the road. As a law firm representing the victims of drunk drivers, we can do our part by fighting aggressively to punish the drunk driver and to set an example to deter others from getting behind the wheel drunk.

Next Issue: The next issue of “Alexandria Woman” magazine will discuss how you can collect on your claim against a drunk driver.

For further information visit: www.geraldaschwartz.com/


Gerald A. Schwartz has more than 30 years experience specializing in Virginia personal injury and wrongful death law. A leader among Virginia personal injury and wrongful death lawyers, Schwartz is recognized as one of the “Top 100 Trial Lawyers in Virginia”. A Past President of the Virginia Trial Lawyers Association, Schwartz is also a faculty and board member of the Virginia College of Trial Advocacy and has been named to Virginia Super Lawyers since 2007. Schwartz is often invited to teach other lawyers how to Maximize Recovery for their clients. Mr. Schwartz also works in association with other lawyers on Zofran Birth Injury Cases. A compassionate and devoted advocate, Gerald Schwartz is with every client, every step of the way, to see that wrongdoers are held accountable and justice is served.