Dallas Drunk Driver Accident Lawyer
- Common Questions and Concerns After a Drunk Driver Accident
- How are personal injury claims involving drunk driver car accidents different from claims involving normal car accidents?
- Dram Shop Laws
- Punitive Damages
- Comparative Fault
- Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage
- Criminal vs. Civil Proceedings
- Statute of Limitations
- Possible Third-Party Liability
- Wrongful Death Claims
- Are drunk drivers automatically at fault for a car accident?
- Understanding “Fault” in Car Accidents
- Comparative Fault in Texas
- The Value of Evidence in Proving the Drunk Driver’s Fault
- Criminal vs. Civil Liability
- Who can bring a personal injury claim against a drunk driver in Texas?
- Bottom Line
Common Questions and Concerns After a Drunk Driver Accident
Being injured in a car accident caused by a drunk driver can be a traumatic experience. If you or a loved one were hit by a drunk driver, you likely have questions and concerns. The following are common questions and concerns that individuals who have been injured in a drunk driver accident have:
How are personal injury claims involving drunk driver car accidents different from claims involving normal car accidents?
In Texas, if you have a personal injury claim arising from a car accident caused by a drunk driver, several unique legal issues come into play. Here are some key factors to consider:
Dram Shop Laws
Texas has dram shop laws that could potentially hold bars, restaurants, or any other establishment that serves alcohol liable if they over-serve a patron who then causes a drunk driving accident. If it can be proven that the establishment served alcohol to someone who was clearly intoxicated and presented a danger to themselves or others, that establishment might be held liable for damages resulting from the accident.
In Texas, victims of drunk driving accidents may be entitled to punitive damages in addition to compensatory damages. Punitive damages are meant to punish the at-fault party for particularly reckless behavior, and driving under the influence often qualifies.
Texas follows a “comparative fault” rule, meaning that as long as you are not more than 50% at fault for the accident, you can recover damages. However, your damages will be reduced by your percentage of fault. In accidents involving drunk drivers, it’s often clear that the intoxicated driver is primarily at fault, but it’s still essential to establish this in your claim.
Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage
Unfortunately, some drunk drivers may be uninsured or underinsured. If you have uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage as part of your auto insurance policy, you might be able to make a claim with your own insurer to cover some of the damages if the drunk driver’s insurance is insufficient.
Criminal vs. Civil Proceedings
Driving while intoxicated is a crime, so there may be a criminal case against the drunk driver. It’s crucial to understand that the criminal case and your personal injury claim (a civil case) are separate legal proceedings. The outcome of the criminal case can influence your civil case, but they have different standards of proof and purposes.
Statute of Limitations
In Texas, there is a two-year statute of limitations for personal injury claims, which means you typically have two years from the date of the accident to file a lawsuit. It’s essential to act promptly and seek legal advice early to ensure your rights are protected.
Possible Third-Party Liability
Besides the drunk driver and potentially the establishments that served them alcohol, there might be other third parties who could be held liable for the accident. For instance, if the drunk driver was on the job or driving a company vehicle, the employer might bear some responsibility.
Wrongful Death Claims
If a loved one was killed by a drunk driver, surviving family members might have the right to file a wrongful death claim to seek compensation for their loss.
Given the complexity of such cases and the unique issues presented, it’s recommended to consult with a personal injury attorney familiar with Texas laws and experienced in handling drunk driving accident cases.
Are drunk drivers automatically at fault for a car accident?
When involved in a car accident with a drunk driver, a common assumption is that the intoxicated driver is automatically at fault due to their impaired state. However, while driving under the influence is both dangerous and illegal, it doesn’t automatically assign fault in the context of a personal injury claim. Here’s what you need to know:
Understanding “Fault” in Car Accidents
“Fault” in a car accident refers to the party responsible for causing the accident. Determining fault is based on negligence – did someone fail to exercise reasonable care, leading to the accident? While being intoxicated is a form of negligence, other factors could also play a role in the accident.
For example, if a drunk driver is driving through an intersection at a safe speed with a green light, and another driver who is distracted runs a red light and hits the drunk driver, the drunk driver would not be at fault for the accident even though the were driving while intoxicated at the time of the wreck. Rather, in this scenario, the distracted driver who ran the red light would be at fault for the accident.
The fact that a driver who was involved in a car accident was intoxicated at the time of the accident, by itself, does not establish that driver’s negligence. That said, in many cases, a drunk driver’s intoxication is exactly what caused the accident.
A driver who is driving while drunk is more likely to injure or kill someone in a car accident because intoxication can slow a driver’s reaction time, impair their vision, and impair their judgment.
Comparative Fault in Texas
Texas operates under a “modified comparative fault” system. This means that even if you are partially to blame for the accident, you can still recover damages. However, your compensation will be reduced by your percentage of fault. If you’re found to be more than 50% at fault, you won’t be able to recover any damages. If the drunk driver claims that you also played a role in causing the accident, it’s essential to have solid evidence to refute this and protect your right to compensation.
The Value of Evidence in Proving the Drunk Driver’s Fault
To ensure the best chance of proving the drunk driver’s fault in your case, gather as much evidence as possible from the accident scene. This can include photographs, witness contact information and statements, police reports, and any details about the driver’s level of intoxication, such as breathalyzer results.
Criminal vs. Civil Liability
Driving under the influence is a criminal offense. If the drunk driver is convicted in criminal court, it can support your claim in civil court. However, the absence of a criminal conviction does not necessarily prevent you from pursuing a personal injury claim. Criminal and civil cases have different standards of proof.
Who can bring a personal injury claim against a drunk driver in Texas?
Being involved in an accident with a drunk driver can be a harrowing experience. Texas law provides a means for victims to seek compensation for their injuries. So, who exactly can bring a personal injury claim against a drunk driver in Texas?
If you were driving another vehicle and were hit by a drunk driver, you have the right to file a personal injury claim against them. This is one of the most common scenarios where injured parties seek compensation for medical expenses, property damage, lost wages, pain and suffering, and more.
Drunk drivers pose a significant risk to everyone, including those on foot. If you were a pedestrian struck by a drunk driver, you could pursue a personal injury claim to cover your medical bills, rehabilitation costs, lost wages, and other related damages.
Even if you were a passenger in the vehicle driven by the intoxicated individual, you have rights. Being in the same car doesn’t make you complicit in the driver’s decision to drink and drive. As a passenger injured due to the driver’s negligence, you can file a claim against the drunk driver to compensate for your injuries and other losses.
Wrongful Death Claims
Tragically, accidents with drunk drivers can sometimes result in fatalities. In such heart-wrenching circumstances, certain surviving family members have the right to bring a wrongful death claim against the intoxicated driver. Those eligible to file include:
- Spouses: A surviving spouse can file a claim for the loss of their partner.
- Children: Minor and adult children can seek compensation for the loss of a parent.
- Parents: Parents can file a claim if their minor or adult child is killed by a drunk driver.
These claims can address a variety of damages, from lost earning capacity and inheritance to mental anguish, loss of companionship, and more.
Drunk driving accidents can impact a broad spectrum of individuals, from other drivers and pedestrians to passengers in the same vehicle and grieving family members. If you or a loved one have been affected by the actions of a drunk driver, Texas law offers avenues for you to seek justice and compensation. Consulting with an experienced personal injury attorney can provide guidance tailored to your unique circumstances.