DRUNK DRIVING ACCIDENTS
In Texas, a person dies every nine hours and six minutes in drunk driving related crashes. In 2019, 914 people in Texas were killed and 1,600 were seriously injured because someone chose to get behind the wheel drunk.
It is against the law in Texas, as well as every other state, to drive a vehicle if you are impaired by alcohol. Unfortunately, too many people in Texas ignore those laws. The reckless decision to drive drunk endangers many lives, including passengers, other motorists and their passengers, not to mention the actual drunk driver. Wrecks caused by drunk drivers can be devastating. They usually involve high rates of speed causing serious injuries from broken bones and brain injuries to death.
Having represented victims of drunk driving, two particular cases made a lasting impression for me. In the first case, I represented the family of a young Fort Worth police officer killed by a drunk driver. The police officer pulled off the highway to assist a motorist change their tire. The drunk driver, who had over 10 previous alcohol related charges, struck the motorist's car and the police officer, severing the police officer’s legs in the wreck. The police officer died at the scene. The drunk driver lived and went to the penitentiary for his crime. My clients lost a son and their lives changed forever.
In the other case, my client’s son was in the National Guard and headed to Guard duty early in the morning. As he approached an intersection with a green light, a single mother of three who had spent the night at a bar drinking ran a red light and killed my client’s son. My client lost her son, the single mother was convicted and sent to prison for 20 years, and her children will grow up without a mother in their lives. Two families devastated and forever changed due to a mother drinking too much and driving and a bar overserving her when she was obviously intoxicated.
These were preventable tragedies. Every day you can open the newspaper, watch the T.V., or listen to the radio and hear of another tragic accident involving alcohol.
Car Accidents Involving Alcohol are Different from Ordinary Car Accidents
If you or a loved one has been injured by a drunk driver, don’t be fooled into settling your case until a full investigation has been done. The fact is that when a drunk driver injures you, your case will probably be worth more money. I have handled many cases where the insurance companies tried to settle with the victims early for a low amount. After I got involved, the recoveries were much higher.
A Full Investigation is Needed
In addition to looking at the action of the drunk driver, a full investigation needs to be done to see if the person was drinking at a bar or other establishment immediately prior to the accident. In Texas, it is against the law for a bar owner to serve alcoholic beverages to visibly intoxicated individual. If they do, then they could also be held liable for the injuries caused to the people the drunk driver injured. This is known as a Dram Shop case. That is why drunk driving accidents need to be fully investigated to ensure all responsible parties are found.
Criminal v. Civil Law
Understand the difference between drunk driving charges. If a person drives drunk and injures someone, the police will probably arrest the drunk driver for violating a criminal statute. That is a criminal charge. If found guilty, the person will face criminal penalties. However, you will not be compensated for your injuries in this criminal case.
Rather, as an accident victim, you have the right under Texas civil law to file a lawsuit seeking compensation for your injuries caused by the drunk driver. You will have to show that the drunk driver was negligent, meaning he/she failed to use reasonable care, and that negligence was a proximate cause of your injuries. Additionally, you may also be able to pursue punitive damages as driving while intoxicated goes beyond ordinary negligence and shows a recklessness not found in most ordinary car accidents. Further, a full investigation may find that others are responsible for the accident, including bar and nightclub owners.
If you have been injured by a drunk driver or a loved one has been injured or killed by a drunk driver, consult an experienced DWI accident attorney to ensure your rights are protected and you receive compensation for your injuries. An experienced drunk driving victim attorney will coordinate with the criminal investigation to obtain relevant police reports, copies of testimony and any salient documents to help establish liability and prosecute your drunk driving case. While the civil case remains separate from the criminal case, your overall case can greatly benefit from an attorney who is familiar with all aspects of both the criminal and civil court systems.
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DRUNK DRIVING ACCIDENT RESOURCES
- Mothers Against Drunk Driving: The leading advocacy group against drunk driving with lots of resources on its website.
- Texas (MADD) Mothers Against Drunk Driving: The Texas chapter of MADD.