There are several distinct issues that arise in drunk driving cases and, perhaps, in texting while driving cases. Those are the obviousness of the negligence, the potential for punitive damages and the possibility that it will not matter if the plaintiff was negligent. In drunk driving cases, the defendant almost never will seriously argue that he or she was not negligent.
If the driving behavior was bad enough or if the facts meet the requirements of Virginia Code Section 8.01-44.5 then punitive damages may be awarded. The maximum amount that can be awarded in Virginia for punitive damages is $300,000.00. Most insurance policies do not provide coverage up to $300,000.00
Lastly, there is an exception to Virginia's general law regarding contributory negligence. If a driver's conduct meets a certain standard of negligence, then the defendant driver cannot claim the plaintiff was negligent. Drunk driving can meet that standard. If that is the case the drunk driver is responsible for damages regardless of whether the injured plaintiff was partly at fault.