16 Feb Virginia Car Accidents: Va. Code Ann. §8.01-44.5 – A Lawyer’s Punitives
Under Virginia common law, motor vehicle operators are liable for all wrongful death, personal injury, and property damages caused by their negligence. Under Virginia statute, they also are liable for exemplary (or punitive) damages for malicious or willful or wanton conduct showing a conscious disregard for the rights of others. Va. Code Ann. §8.01-44.5.
Significantly, willfulness or wantonness under §8.01-44.5 can be satisfied by proof of intoxication under certain circumstances. Specifically, a motor vehicle operator is sufficiently willful or wanton if: (1) he has a blood alcohol concentration of at least 0.15 percent; (2) knew or should have known his ability to operate was impaired; and (3) his intoxication proximately caused wrongful death or personal injury.
A plaintiff bears the burden of proving intoxication. However, if a motor vehicle operator unreasonably refuses a blood alcohol test required by §18.2-268.2, then a plaintiff still may prove intoxication by the operator’s conduct or condition.