There are reasons the law requires drivers to not drink and drive. The primary reason is to ensure the safety of others. Drivers owe a duty to other motorists and the public to be responsible and act as a prudent driver. Unfortunately, not everyone follows the law. People are negligent, and that negligence often causes harm to innocent people.
Drinking and driving is illegal in every state and has been a major focus of prevention efforts for decades. There is no excuse for a person to get behind the wheel while they are drunk. And yet, alcohol is a factor in thousands of car accidents every year.
The law holds reckless people who put others at risk by drinking and driving accountable for the losses they cause. If you were injured in a drunk driving car accident in Houston, reach out to a local attorney as soon as possible. An experienced auto collision attorney could help you hold the drunk driver responsible for your accident-related damages.
Civil Versus Criminal Penalties
When a drunk driver gets in a car accident, they usually face criminal charges. The severity of the charges depends on several factors, including the driver’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC), whether they have a history of impaired driving, and the damage the accident caused to people and property. Penalties include fines, license suspension, alcohol awareness class, probation, community service, fines, and installing an ignition interlock device. In some cases, drunk drivers receive jail sentences. However, it is important to note that criminal proceedings are not centered around compensating the accident victim.
Anyone seeking compensation for injuries a drunk driver inflicted must turn to the civil courts. If a Houston attorney could prove the drunk driver’s negligence caused the accident, the driver is liable to pay the injured person’s damages. Civil proceedings are independent of criminal proceedings, and an injured person does not need to wait for the criminal charges to resolve before initiating a civil lawsuit.
Obtaining Damages After a Drunk Driving Accident
Texas law requires an at-fault driver to pay the damages of other involved parties. In practice, the at-fault driver’s insurance company pays up to the driver’s coverage limits. A driver whose BAC was over the legal limit will almost always be the at-fault party in an accident with a driver who was sober, barring extraordinary circumstances.
If the drunk driver has no insurance, the injured person could turn to their own uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage. If the injured person does not have this coverage, they must look to the courts to secure damages from the driver’s personal assets. In the instance that a drunk driver does not have substantial assets, a Houston attorney could investigate other sources of coverage.
For example, Texas Alcoholic Beverage Code §2.02 allows an injured person to hold a bar or restaurant liable if they served alcohol to an already intoxicated person and the person went on to injure someone due to their intoxication. Other potential sources of compensation could be the owner of the car the drunk driver was operating, a manufacturer if mechanical failure played a role in the victim’s injuries, or a local government if road maintenance was a factor.
Damages in Houston Drunk Driving Accidents
Someone who suffered injuries in a drunk driving accident could receive compensatory damages that reimburse all their expenses related to the injury. These include missed time at work and diminished future earning potential if the injury is permanent. Damages include all medical treatment, including mental health support, rehabilitation costs, and any expenses necessary to accommodate the injury. These are the injured person’s economic damages.
Non-economic damages are those losses that temporarily or permanently impair an accident victim’s quality of life. An injured person could seek damages for pain, mental distress, disability, inability to participate in activities they enjoy, and other results of the injury.
Judges sometimes award punitive or exemplary damages against drunk drivers. These damages are intended to punish the offender for particularly egregious conduct and deter similar behavior in the future.
Do not settle with the insurance company at the scene of the accident or even the next day when you are setting up your claim. The insurance company will offer you a settlement so that you do not hire an attorney. Do not accept it. Consult with an attorney first to see your options. There are reasons the insurance company does not want you to hire an attorney. It is because they know that, without an attorney, they can take advantage of the situation and settle for less than what you deserve. The insurance company is in the business of collecting premiums, and their purpose is to try and collect money, not give it away. Keep this in mind when they make you an offer. They are looking out for themselves, not you. You look out for yourself by hiring an experienced law firm to fight on your behalf.
Discuss Your Drunk Driving Accident Claim with a Skilled Houston Attorney
If you suffered injuries in a drunk driving car accident in Houston, you might be confused about how to proceed. Texas laws regarding car accident liability are complicated, and you might leave money on the table if you do not have professional representation.
A Houston injury attorney could manage your claim and ensure you get the compensation you deserve. Reach out now to schedule a case review.