Yes, if you were hit by a drunk driver, this can have a tremendous impact on the value of your claim. In Virginia, if the defendant is found to have a blood alcohol level in excess of .15% on the blood alcohol report, you are automatically entitled to sue for punitive damages, in addition to the amounts you are going to recover for your injuries. In North Carolina, defendant exceeded the legal limits, and, it appears that his intoxication contributed to the accident, you’re also going to be entitled to punitive damages.
What punitive damages are, are just what they sound like—punishment of the defendant for driving drunk. This entitles your attorney to make the argument that not only is the jury entitled to award damages to compensate you for your injuries, but they are also entitled to award damages to make an example out of the defendant, or to punish him or her so that others will be deterred from driving drunk. This can be a very powerful argument in front of the jury, and the insurance companies know this, so they typically value these claims much higher than they would a regular injury case.
If you are hit by someone whom you suspect may be intoxicated, it is very important, if you are at all able, to make sure that either you and/or any of your passengers are in a position to observe the level of intoxication of that driver. Although the police will certainly perform sobriety tests on that individual, or any other observations are certainly relevant, and may enhance your ability to obtain a larger verdict for punitive damages. For instance, was this individual slurring his or speech? Was there a strong odor of alcohol about their person? Were they falling down or stumbling upon exiting the vehicle? Were they able to walk a straight line, or did they sway to and fro as intoxicated people often do?
Clearly, the more you are able to show that this person had no business getting behind the wheel of a multi-ton vehicle, the better chance you have of proving you are punitive damages claim against that person.