Drunk driving is a significant problem in the United States and in West Virginia, as seen firsthand by the West Virginia drunk driving accident attorneys at Tiano O’Dell, PLLC. In West Virginia, 1,092 people died in drunk driving accidents from 2003 to 2012. Hundreds of thousands more suffered serious injuries. Thousands will never recover from these injuries and will always live with permanent disabilities such as paralysis or brain injury. The state has many laws in place to prevent driving under the influence (DUI), including severe penalties for those who drive over the legal blood alcohol concentration limit (0.08%).
Despite state laws, drunk drivers get behind the wheel thousands of times every year. Driving drunk is a criminal offense that destroys lives. If you or a loved one has suffered unthinkable losses at the hands of a drunk driver, do not let the responsible party escape justice. Contact the Charleston personal injury attorneys at Tiano O’Dell, PLLC for help.
Drunk Driving Statistics
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA):
- There are almost 30 deaths per day involving alcohol-impaired drivers in the U.S.
- In 2009, there were more than 10,000 traffic fatalities that involved a driver with a BAC of more than .08 – the legal limit.
- An alcohol-related traffic death occurs approximately every 48 minutes throughout the country.
- Alcohol-related driving accidents cost more than $51 billion yearly.
- There were 356 drunk-driving deaths in West Virginia in 2009.
If you were injured in a motor vehicle collision that was caused by an intoxicated driver, you may seek compensation in a personal injury lawsuit. If a loved one lost their life in an alcohol-related crash, the spouse, dependent children, siblings and/or parents may seek compensation in a wrongful death claim. Tiano O’Dell, PLLC is a plaintiff’s rights law firm and our West Virginia car accident lawyers have handled thousands of claims for clients in Charleston and around the state. We offer a complimentary consultation – see below for details.
West Virginia Drunk Driving Laws
By West Virginia law, a driver with a blood alcohol concentration level of 0.08% or higher is legally alcohol-impaired. This limit drops to 0.04% for commercial drivers and 0.02% for drivers under the age of 21 (zero tolerance). Breaking these laws results in various penalties depending on the circumstances. The courts and Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) may suspend the driver’s license, impose fees, mandate an ignition interlock device, and/or assign jail time. On top of criminal and DMV charges, a drunk driver may face a personal injury lawsuit if he or she injured another party while intoxicated.
Civil tort laws allow injured accident victims to file claims against intoxicated drivers for damages in the event of serious personal injury or expensive property damage. These legal actions are separate from criminal charges a drunk driver may face. Victims may hire a West Virginia drunk driving attorney and be eligible to obtain monetary awards for damages such as:
- Past and future accident-related medical bills
- Therapy and rehabilitative costs
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Lost wages
- Lost quality of life
- Property damage
Courts will assign an award based on the value of the damages and the circumstances of the case. In some drunk driving cases, the courts may award punitive damages. West Virginia has a cap on punitive damages of $500,000. This means the courts cannot award an accident victim more than this amount. In the event of DUI resulting in wrongful death, the family of the deceased person can receive these damages and others relating to loss of the person’s comfort, care, protection, services, and income.
DUI Accident Victims and Punitive Damages in West Virginia
When a defendant’s conduct is especially egregious, offensive, or reckless, punitive damages may be awarded in addition to standard compensation. Drunk driving may be proven by the defendant’s blood, urine, or breath sample. Punitive damages are awarded to punish the defendant for his or her unacceptable conduct, as well as to serve as a deterrent to others. Punitive damages may increase the award significantly.
Comparative Negligence Laws
If you were partially at fault for an accident, do not let this stop you from seeking compensation. West Virginia is a comparative negligence state. This means the courts can split fault and award damages accordingly. As long as the DUI accident victim is less than 50% at fault, he or she is eligible for compensation. The courts will reduce the plaintiff’s percentage of fault from his or her total award. For example, if the courts find you 20% at fault for ignoring a stop sign, but the other driver 80% at fault for drinking and driving, you would receive 80% of the original award – i.e. $80,000 of a $100,000 award.
Call a West Virginia Drunk Driving Accident Attorney Today
If you were injured by a drunk driver, you may seek compensation for your injuries and expenses. Tiano O’Dell, PLLC offers a free consultation to discuss your case, ask questions and review your options. We are skilled negotiators and have settled and tried thousands of cases. We have been honored as West Virginia Super Lawyers and as Top 100 Trial Lawyers.
We believe in our clients and we aggressively fight for them. We believe that each client deserves personalized, individualized attention. We answer your phone calls and return your emails; we keep you abreast of the progress of your case. There are no fees unless we win your case. To schedule a complimentary case evaluation with a drunk driving accident lawyer in Charleston, West Virginia, call us at (304) 720-6700.