Posted on Friday, January 3rd, 2020 at 2:53 pm
Drunk Driving Kills. Period.
Perhaps you, a loved one or someone you know has been injured or killed in a car accident caused by a drunk driver.
First of all, if that is the case, I am very sorry this is happened to you.
Maybe part of you feels that you would like to make sure that this person– this idiot– who decided to break the law in such an egregious way by getting into a multi-ton automobile and drive while drunk should be not just sued, but punished. Punished beyond the normal way that people are punished when a claim is made against them for damages for injury or death. Not just with a slap on the wrist.
So that perhaps people will hear about this and be deterred from driving drunk.
Well, our lawmakers here in Virginia were well aware of this feeling and passed laws that make it easier for you or your loved ones who were injured to recover more damages than usual in a case where the defendant was driving drunk at the time of the accident.
The law says that in certain circumstances, in addition to regular damages, a jury may award something called punitive damages. These damages are in addition to the normal damages that a jury might award an injury case, such as for medical bills, lost time from work, and pain and suffering.
Punitive Damages are awarded where the defendant’s conduct is so bad that it shows a conscious disregard for the rights of others. This bad conduct is referred to in the law as “willful and wanton” conduct. What does that mean?
The good news is we don’t have to worry about what that means, because the law sets it out by way of statute, by giving the injured person a series of presumptions they will be entitled to.
What does that mean, a presumption? That means that if you’re injured, or a loved one has been killed and been hit by a drunk driver and you prove these particular things, you are going to be entitled to have the jury find an award in your favor against the defendant, for punitive damages.
The bad news is that if you don’t get to the level of these presumptions, you’re probably not going to have a punitive damages case in Virginia. Why? Because the Supreme Court in Virginia is pretty picky about awarding punitive damages outside of drunk driving cases.
What kind of presumptions are we talking about?
The first is that there is a presumption that the defendant acted willfully and wantonly, if, at the time of the accident, the defendant had a blood alcohol level of .15, either by blood or by the breath method. Along with that, you must prove that the fact that the person was drunk at the time of the accident was a proximate cause of the accident.
Of course, there must be a certificate of analysis presented according to the law in order to prove this blood alcohol concentration of .15 or above.
Now many of you probably already know that the legal limit to be considered intoxicated in Virginia at this time is a blood alcohol concentration of .08. But that’s not enough to get you this presumption in Virginia. That’s because generally in Virginia, as I mentioned a minute ago, punitive damages are not favored. In other words, the Supreme Court of Virginia does not like to grant them and will routinely strike down cases where people are trying to show punitive damages.
But once you can prove these presumptions, it should not be a problem getting to punitive damages, because once you get a .15 BAC, it’s also presumed that the person basically knew that if they drank and got in a car that their ability to operate that vehicle was going to be impaired. That means they were by definition engaging in willful and wanton conduct, and there is your punitive damages claim.
By the way, this also applies to someone operating a motorcycle or a locomotive, not just a car.
What if you are just shy of the amount? In other words, what if the certificate comes back and it says defendant’s BAC was .13 or .14? Does that mean you don’t have a punitive damages case?
The answer that is usually no, you still may have a punitive damages case. Why? Because you must remember that most of the time when the blood alcohol test is given, hours have passed since the defendant was hauled away from the accident scene by police.
During that time, the alcohol in his or her system has continued to metabolize.
Remember, the question is not what the blood alcohol concentration of the drunk driver was two hours later when their blood was drawn and the test given. The question is what was the blood alcohol concentration of the drunk driver at the time of the collision?
How do you prove that? By obtaining the services of an expert such as a toxicologist, your attorney can prove in court that in fact, even though the certificate came back at a .13 or .14, that in fact the defendants BAC levels likely exceeded the .15 threshold at the time of the accident. There are several toxicologists out there who are very knowledgeable about blood alcohol concentrations, and routinely give their testimony in court.
So– is the .15 blood alcohol level the only potential presumption in a drunk driving injury case?
No, there is also a presumption that if you can prove the defendant unreasonably refused to submit to either the blood or breath test, and you can prove they were drunk at the time of the accident by other evidence such as field sobriety tests conducted by the police officer at the scene, then you can get to punitive damages Award by the jury that way as well.
How much can you potentially get for punitive damages in Virginia?
Currently, in Virginia there is a cap on the amount of punitive damages in VA, which is limited to $350,000.00
But remember, this amount is in addition to whatever award the injured person is given for their regular damages, which may consist of payment of medical bills, lost time from work, and pain and suffering.
Now just as a reminder-and this is so important that it bears repeating over and over again -remember that even though the damages from a drunk driving car accident or any catastrophic wreck might be horrific, as a practical matter, you are always going to be limited to whatever motor vehicle insurance coverage is available in the case. That means if the defendant is driving around with the minimum limits in Virginia of $25,000—which I can tell you many folks are– and your underinsured coverage does not exceed that amount, then that is all you’re going to get, even if you have $1 million in medical bills from the accident.
Please, please do not fall for these ridiculous commercials constantly on TV promising you lower rates. Sure, you may have lower rates, but what policy did you buy, what coverage do you have? Sure, they’ll save you 15% in 15 minutes if you’re going to buy a piece of junk policy, compared to something that gives you sufficient coverage.
I implore everyone, please buy as much car insurance coverage as you can possibly afford, preferably at least $300,000 in liability, uninsured, and UIM coverage. That coverage is there to protect you in the event you are loved one or in your household is hit and injured severely by someone who was driving around with low or no insurance coverage.
Joe Miller, Esq. of Joe Miller Law, Ltd, has been representing the injured for over 30 years in Virginia. He routinely helps victims of drunk drivers with these cases. If you are a loved one has been injured by a drunk driver please do not hesitate to call us at 888-694-1671 or utilize our contact form. Also, if someone close to you has been killed by a drunk driver, we can help with that as well by representing the Estate of the victim to recover damages for those left behind, those whose lives have been shattered by a careless drunk driver.
Posted on Wednesday, January 9th, 2019 at 5:01 pm
In this video, Attorney Joe Miller explains why you should NEVER obtain a side job or other “under the table” job while receiving workers’ compensation benefits:
Posted on Monday, September 24th, 2018 at 4:07 pm
Not every accident is equal. At one extreme are rear-end collisions which rarely kill someone. In most cases, the car accident victims suffer whiplash and soft tissue issue injuries. At the other extreme, are head-on collisions and broadside collisions. These latter types of injuries often kill a car occupant or cause the driver or passengers to suffer very serious injuries.
According to the North Carolina Department of Transportation, for the year 2016:
Experienced North Carolina car accident lawyers guide families of the deceased and guide the survivors through each phase of the trial process.
In this type of a crash two vehicles collide front to side. This means the front of one car, usually the car at fault, drives into the side of another car. Broadside crashes are also called T-bone crashes because the position of the cars on impact looks like the letter “T.” Because the cars strike at right angles to each other, there’s a strong likelihood that one or both cars will spin out of control which can cause a multi-vehicle accident.
The occupants of the car whose side is struck often suffer the most harm because the side of a car offers virtually no protection – unlike the hood of the other car. Side airbags are also less likely to deploy than front air bags. The occupants of both cars are likely to be thrown about the car, if the airbags don’t deploy. The occupants in the car whose front strikes the other car are also likely to be thrown into the windshield or the dashboard. Occupants of both cars are likely to be thrown into each other.
How broadside car crashes happen
Generally, the car whose front strikes the side of the other car is the car at fault. The driver and the owners of this front car should be held accountable for any injuries or deaths they cause. Some of the reasons for broadside accidents are:
The worst-case scenario is that a driver or passenger will be killed. When someone dies, experienced North Carolina and Virginia car accident lawyers file wrongful death actions on behalf of the estate of the decedent and the surviving family members.
Survivors of broadside collisions can suffer traumatic brain injury, paralysis, broken bones, acute and chronic bone, damage to ligaments and muscles, damage to the spinal cord, internal bleeding, and any many other injuries. Some injuries may resolve with months or years of medical care. Other injuries can completely alter a person’s life. Flying glass, striking other car parts, knocking into passengers, and even being stuck on the steering column are common broadside injuries.
In addition to killing or injuring passengers, T-bone crashes often destroy the vehicles involved or require extensive repairs. Generally, if the cost to fix the car is more than the value of the car, the damage is considered a total loss. In total loss cases, owners are entitled to demand payment from the responsible drivers/owners and applicable insurance companies for the value of the car.
Head-on car crashes are often deadly. Survivors often suffer catastrophic injuries which require a lifetime of care. Many victims often need the jaws of life tool just to be extricated from the vehicles. In most cases, one driver is clearly in the wrong because he/she was in the wrong lane of traffic. But this is not always the case. Sometimes a vehicle may be knocked into the oncoming lane by a vehicle headed in the same direction, in which case the fault would originate with the vehicle who slammed into the car that was thrust into the oncoming lane. Some reasons why a driver might go the wrong way down a one-way street, drive on the wrong side in a two-lane road, or go the wrong way on a road ramp are:
In head-on collision cases, the personal representative for the estate of someone who was killed can hold the driver who was going the wrong way and/or other at-fault drivers accountable for wrongful death damages. In North Carolina, the Estate of the deceased should sue the irresponsible driver for all their damages such as physical pain of the deceased, loss of service and society, as well as the emotional suffering of the beneficiaries, lost wages, and medical bills. Medical bills include surgeries, hospital stays necessary to attempt to save the life of the decedent.
In addition to standard damages, experienced North Carolina trial lawyers will often seek to punish the driver’s bad behavior through an award of punitive damages. Punitive damages can be awarded in North Carolina, if a defendant acted recklessly, wantonly, or maliciously. A case can be made that a drunk driver, a distracted driver, or a speeding driver was acting recklessly and without any regard for the safety of passengers and the occupants of other vehicles.
Of course, if the deceased or injured driver was acting in the course of employment, an additional claim must be made for workers compensation benefits. If there is a death, then there are additional workers compensation death benefits available to the dependents of the deceased worker under the Workers Compensation Act. It is very important, particularly in Virginia, that the injury case against the other driver NOT be settled, as long as there is a pending workers compensation case. If this occurs, it could wipe out any workers compensation benefits available to the dependents of the deceased or the ongoing workers compensation case of the injured worker.
Make the call to a respected North Carolina and Virginia accident lawyer today
At the North Carolina and Virginia Law office of Joe Miller Esq., we have the experience and resources to hold irresponsible and reckless drivers accountable for the physical pain and emotional harm they cause. Attorney Joe Miller has been fighting for injury victims for more than 30 years. To schedule a free consultation, please call (888) 694-1671 or complete my contact form.
Posted on Friday, June 15th, 2018 at 10:13 am
Car accident cases aren’t simply a matter of “here’s what happened, pay me a large sum of money.” Experienced Virginia car accident lawyers are skilled at each phase of the trial from the initial client consultation through a trial before a jury. Once your medical diagnosis is clear, the lawyer will work to try to settle your case. To get the best results, the lawyer prepares your case as if it is going to go to trial.
Since car accident lawyers usually take your case on a contingency fee basis, the client does not need to rush to make a quick settlement. Contingency fee means the car accident lawyer only gets paid if your case settles or if you obtain a jury verdict. So you will not have to stroke a check to hire the attorney.
There are several steps a car accident victim should take before speaking with an attorney. For more detailed information on what to do and what not to do if you’ve been in a car accident, please download my book 23 Simple Rules to Follow if You’ve Been in a Car Accident, or call our office for a hard-bound copy. Also, remember that if you were on the job at the time of your accident, there will be a Workers’ Compensation element to your claim as well which we can handle for you.
Victims should also understand that both Virginia and North Carolina have a strict contributory negligence laws. This means if a jury finds that the other driver was 90% at fault and you were just 10% at fault, then you get nothing. You don’t get 90%. You don’t get 50%. You get zero. So, admitting or implying fault in any way can cause you to lose your case.
Now if you were on the job at the time of your accident, generally, fault does not affect workers comp entitlement, unless you were grossly negligent, or failed to follow a company safety rule. For instance, if company safety rules require that you wear a seatbelt, and you were not wearing one and this increased your injuries, you would not be entitled to workers comp coverage.
While some injuries such as a broken arm are treated and then heal in a few months, there are often exceptions. When your arm heals, you may lose some range of motion. There still may be a persistent pain. If you settle too early, you can’t come back and ask for more money. That’s why it’s good to wait until your medical condition has stabilized.
Along with the physical pain is the emotional worry about when and if your injuries will heal. You worry that you’ve become a burden to your family. Physical pain is often accompanied by depression, anxiety, fear, and other emotions.
Your doctors can summarize some of your pain and suffering. Family members can testify as to your sadness, your crying, and other symptoms. Often, the best witness for showing pain is you, the victim. An experienced lawyer will usually value the pain and suffering part of your claim based on his experience and knowledge of the jury pool and what other juries have awarded in the past.
How long will all of this Take?
So, this sounds like an awful lot to do. You may ask how long all of this will take? And this really depends on how long your treatment takes and many other factors that are too numerous to get into here. I suggest you download the book How Long Will My Case Take? where attorney Joe Miller provides the detailed answers to that question.
Car accident victims shouldn’t wait to speak with a lawyer. Memories fade. Evidence such as skid marks can disappear. Injuries usually worsen if you don’t see your doctor. As a respected car accident lawyer, Joe Miller will guide you through each phase of your case. He has been fighting for injury victims for over a quarter century. To make an appointment, please call (888) 694-1671 or complete my contact form.
Posted on Friday, May 18th, 2018 at 8:07 am
Drivers and passengers suffer many different types of injuries. In the worst cases, the car occupants die. In severe cases, victims may suffer catastrophic injuries such as a traumatic brain injury or a in injury to their spine. Spinal cord damage may result in partial or full paralysis. Catastrophic injuries can change the quality of accident victim’s life forever. Many victims suffer broken bones, nerve damage, cuts from windshield glass, and burns. Some victims suffer amputations, disfigurement, and scarring.
Most injuries are due to the car driver or passenger being thrown around the vehicle. Occupants may strike the windshield, the dashboard, or the steering wheel. Many car crash victims collide with other car passengers. Some victims are thrown from the vehicle. Occupants may also be hurt when their air bag inflates.
Depending on what type of injuries the driver or passenger suffered, victims need to get medical help from many different types of doctors. North Carolina and Virginia car accident lawyer Joe Miller works with the following type of physicians:
Some patients may need a medical device such as a prosthetic or wheelchair. Most car accident victims need to take prescription medications
Victims who suffer or think they might have internal damage are usually transported by ambulance or by emergency medical care to the closest emergency room. There, the doctors will conduct a battery of imaging tests, a physical exam, and an oral exam to help make a medical diagnosis.
Examples of internal injuries include:
Many patients with internal injuries often have to cope with internal bruises.
Most whiplash injuries occur when a front car is struck in the rear by a distracted or careless driver. It is often made fun of comedically in TV sketches; however, it can actually be a serious, and in some instances, permanent injury. Whiplash involves a tearing of the muscles and ligaments that surround the cervical spine.
The symptoms of a whiplash can take a day or few days to appear. So, anyone in a rear-end collision should avoid saying they feel fine until they’ve waited to see if they do have a whiplash. Most often, you will feel it when you wake up the next day. Common symptoms include:
A whiplash injury happens when the neck and head suddenly move backwards and then forward. (Hyperextension). This unusual motion puts a great deal of stress on the cervical/neck spine. Some car accident whiplash victims may even lose their memory due to the brain being slammed up against the interior of the skull. Whiplash injuries damage the muscles, discs, nerves, joints, and bones around the neck.
Physicians will conduct an oral exam and a physical examination. In addition to listening to you explain your symptoms, the doctor will feel or palpate your neck to see if there is muscle spasm. The doctor will see if anything isn’t aligned properly and determine your range of motion. The doctors may analyze your reflexes and how strong or weak your neck muscles and nerves exiting the spinal column in that area are.
Imaging tests include CT scans, MRI exams, and X-Rays – especially if they suspect a fracture. Whiplash injuries are graded depending on their severity. One of the most common effects of whiplash is a straightening of the spine or cervical lordosis. This can actually be seen on X-ray, and in some cases, digital motion x-ray. This happens when the muscle spasm is so severe it pulls the neck out of it’s normal curvature, and into a straight, “beanpole” configuration, where there is no curvature at all.
Self-help whiplash treatments include:
Cervical collars used to be a standard recommendation for whiplash but now there is some thought that these collars may actually weaken neck muscles.
Doctors may recommend the following treatments:
Most patients with just whiplash return to reasonably normal lives in a few months. In severe cases, some car accident victims may have a lifetime of chronic pain due to the scar tissue left over from the whiplash. Older victims usually have a more difficult time fully recovering than younger victims because the tissue is not as resilient. Women are also more prone to long-term whiplash damage than men.
Both North Carolina and Virginia are fault-car accident states. This means injured victims need to prove that another driver or another responsible party caused your injuries. Victims who can prove fault are entitled to payment of their reasonable medical bills, lost wages and pain and suffering. Proving fault and getting a just recovery requires the help of a respected lawyer. And of course, we know car accidents also occur while people are ‘on-the-clock’ for their employer. Because we also specialize in workers compensation in both Virginia and North Carolina, we can help with that portion of your claim as well. Joe Miller Esq. has been helping injury victims get justice for more than 30 years. To arrange a free consultation, please phone (888) 694-1671 or fill out my contact form.
Posted on Tuesday, May 1st, 2018 at 10:48 am
Car crashes can be frightening. It’s hard to know who to call, what information you need, what evidence is needed, or how to care for the injured. Certainly, nobody wants to get into an accident – but it helps to have a plan in case a crash does occur. Almost everyone will have an accident in their lifetime.
The best plan is to contact an experienced car accident lawyer as soon as possible. The attorney will explain your rights and guide you through each stage of the claims and litigation process. A second plan is to make sure you have your cellphone with you. The phone should be charged and should have access to the Internet. With your smartphone, you can review our blog for general suggestions.
When you speak with your lawyer, he can explain what information is not required to be exchanged. Generally, drivers shouldn’t discuss how the accident happened. NEVER admit any fault, or say you are “sorry,” even it sounds nice. That will be determined later. As a general rule, it’s not necessary to give your address and phone number, unless asked for by the police.
There are other precautions and plans drivers should consider. The car should be stocked with different items to handle different situations. A car should include:
When you get home, you should note the time and date of the accident and what the weather conditions were. Try to remember how fast each car was going and which directions they were going.
Proper planning helps determine who caused the accident. Planning helps verify your damages which include:
Attorney Joe Miller Esq. has been fighting for the injured for more than 30 years. He’s helped thousands of people get justice in both Virginia and North Carolina He’ll fight to get you the damage award you deserve through a strong settlement or a jury verdict. For hep now, please phone (888) 694-1671 or complete the contact form.
Posted on Friday, April 27th, 2018 at 10:20 am
Every car accident happens in a different way. How the crash happens is a strong indicator of which driver was at fault. For example, almost all read-end collisions happen because one car was struck in the rear by another driver who wasn’t paying attention. How the accident occurred also indicates what injuries are likely. Again, in a rear-end collision, the occupants of the car that is struck usually suffer whiplash and other soft-tissue injuries.
Attorney Joe Miller works with the police and investigators to determine how the crash occurred. If necessary, his team speaks to all relevant witnesses including the passengers in any cars and any bystanders. The good news is that in most circumstances, the rear-end collision scenario requires little investigation. Some of the other kinds may require more intensive investigation. What is most important is that you do not say something early on that you do not realize implicates you in some level of fault. In Virginia and North Carolina, that could mean the end of your case.
Most car crashes fall into one of the following categories:
Accidents happen for many other reasons:
In many car accidents, more than one person may be responsible. The owners of the car can be held liable if someone else used their car with their permission. In North Carolina, a Bar may be responsible if they served alcohol to someone they knew or should have known was intoxicated and who then caused an accident due to drunk driving.
Delay can hurt your case. It’s best to inspect the accident scene and speak to witnesses as soon as possible. Attorney Joe Miller Esq. has been fighting for injured residents for more than 25 years. He understands how to prove fault. He’ll demand the right amount of damages for your pain and suffering, medical bills, and lost wages. For help now, please call (888) 694-1671 or fill out the contact form.
Posted on Monday, June 5th, 2017 at 3:27 pm
It seems to be common sense that if you are on the job and injured in a car or truck wreck that happens because you passed out, blacked out, had a heart attack, brain aneurysm, seizure, or some other unknown condition, it would not be the employer’s fault and they would not be responsible for your injuries at all.
This article is here to tell you that this assumption would be wrong. In Virginia, if your job requires you to drive a car or a truck, and for some medical reason, you pass out, black out or otherwise lose control of the vehicle and your loss of consciousness causes the wreck, this is something that the employer is responsible for and you would be entitled to benefits under Virginia Workers Compensation. The reason is that if you had passed out or blacked out at home, it is quite likely that the result may have been simply a bump on the head, or a trip to the emergency room; however, because your job required you to drive down the road at high speeds in a multi-ton vehicle, and exposes you to much more serious injury, this puts you at an increased risk of much more severe injury if you do, in fact pass out, black out, etc.
Accordingly, if an accident happens while you are driving a truck or car for your employer, and you pass out, suffer a seizure, or have a heart attack or any other medical condition which causes you to lose consciousness and as a result lose control of the vehicle, and you are in an accident, you have a good case.
The one thing to watch out for: Your doctor must support the notion that whatever happened to you or caused you to pass out, this condition caused you to temporarily lose consciousness and therefore lose control of the vehicle and get in the wreck. It cannot be a “possibly caused.” It has to be a “probably caused.” If you do not have the doctor’s statement, you will not have a good case.
You should be aware that at first glance, this is not something that makes sense to most people, and that the workers compensation adjuster may not be familiar with the law on this subject. He or she may try to tell you that you do not have a claim. We want you to know that this statement is wrong, and if you are told this, it is either being done out of deception or ignorance.
If you have suffered a work injury because you blacked out while driving a car or a truck, please do not hesitate to call us toll-free at 888-694-1671 or fill out the online form. Attorney Joe Miller at the Work Injury Center has been representing injured workers in Virginia for over 27 years, and stands ready to assist you with your workers compensation claim. Please give us a call!
Posted on Wednesday, June 8th, 2016 at 2:00 pm
The families of employees who die due to a workplace accident or occupational illness are entitled to the following death benefits under the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Act:
Which family members can get benefits?
Death benefits include:
Joe Miller, Esq. has been helping injured workers get justice when work injuries or work illnesses happen. His work includes representing the families of loved ones who died due to a workplace accident or illness. He fights for spouse, children, and even parents to get payment for lost wages, funeral expenses, and transportation costs. Call attorney Joe Miller at 888-694-1671 and ask for Joe Miller, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.