Possible Third Party Liability After a Houston DUI Accident
In some instances, the drunk driver is not the only party whom you can hold liable for your crash-related injuries. Texas laws can sometimes hold providers of alcohol responsible if they served alcohol to the drunk person. Such liable parties can include:
- Bars, restaurants, and other alcohol vendors that provide alcohol to children younger than 18
- Bars, restaurants, and other alcohol vendors that provide alcohol to people who are obviously so drunk that they present risks of harm to themselves and others
- Adults social hosts who provide alcohol to children younger than 18<
In such cases, the injuries must have been a foreseeable result of the person’s intoxication. Such “dram shop” claims are not always available, but an attorney can identify when you can hold additional parties liable for your losses.
Drunk Driving in Houston
In Houston and throughout Harris County, residents get injured in drunk driving accidents nearly every day. According to the Texas Department of Transportation, a Texan is injured or killed in a drunk driving accident every 20 minutes. And Texas is one of the worst states the nation in fatal drunk driving crashes. In 2015 alone, 362 people lost their lives in drunk driving accidents in Harris County and Houston according to MADD.
The drunk driving problem in Houston just continues to grow. Some statistics indicate that one out of every three fatal accidents in Houston is caused by a drunk driver.
Houston Drunk Driving Accident FAQ
Every year, hundreds of drivers and passengers throughout Houston suffer severe injuries or death in drunk driving accidents. Drunk driving accidents often have life-changing consequences—and the aftermath leaves victims with more questions than answers.
If you have questions that relate to a specific drunk driving accident, contact our team of Houston drunk driving accident lawyers and legal professionals as soon as possible. We have decades of experience successfully handling Houston drunk driving accident claims.
Below you can find the answers to some commonly asked questions concerning drunk driving accidents in the Houston area.
How does drunk driving contribute to an accident?
It’s a plain and simple fact: drunk drivers are much more likely than other drivers to cause accidents. With even a minor amount of alcohol in their system, drunk drivers may start to lose their decision-making abilities and struggle to control their vehicles. Driving drunk can cause:
- Loss of judgment. Drivers with alcohol in their blood may make poor choices, including everything from attempting to run a red light to ignoring the speed limit. A person’s decision-making ability deteriorates rapidly as alcohol intake increases, which means the more they have to drink before getting behind the wheel, the worse their decisions get.
- Slower reflexes. Drunk drivers may struggle to stop the vehicle before an accident occurs or to turn away from a potential accident in time. Slower reflexes can make it difficult to avoid hazards in the road or even to steer the car correctly.
- Poor muscle coordination. In addition to slowed reflexes, drunk drivers may struggle to control their vehicles at all. Coordination goes out the window when you’re drunk, making it tough to get a car to move or stop properly. It also becomes incredibly difficult to steer, leading to everything from driving off the road to over-correction.
- Compromised vision. To prevent an accident, drivers have to see it coming. Not only can drunk drivers miss potential hazards, they may struggle with tunnel vision, blurry vision, or other difficulty focusing on the road, which can make it hard to navigate properly. A drunk driver may not even notice another vehicle on the road until it’s too late. Worse, drunk drivers may fail to note vulnerable pedestrians or cyclists, who often suffer more serious injuries in accidents than vehicle occupants.
- Inability to pay attention to the road. Drunk drivers become distracted more easily. They pay less attention to the road and may try to engage in other tasks while driving – but even chatting with a passenger can become a fatal distraction.
As a result of these conditions caused by alcohol intake, drunk drivers are at a greater risk of causing an accident in general. They cannot control their vehicles properly, they make poor choices, and they might not notice the things around them. On the road, this is a recipe for disaster.
How does a drunk driver affect the compensation I can receive for my injury accident?
If you know the other driver in your injury accident drove while impaired, does that change the amount of compensation you’ll receive for your accident? Short answer: maybe. You will receive compensation for your accident based on the liable driver’s insurance policy limits and the extent of your injuries. A drunk driver may cause more damage in an accident, which can increase the compensation you ultimately receive for your injuries.In addition, you might be able to recover punitive damages more easily from a drunk driver than a sober one. Punitive damages exist to punish bad behavior and irresponsibility, and can be added on to particularly horrific personal injury claims.
Does it make a difference if the other driver does NOT receive a drunk driving conviction?
You suffered serious injuries in an accident with the drunk driver. Unfortunately, the other driver did not receive a drunk driving conviction. Maybe the police did not have adequate evidence for a conviction, or perhaps the police did not collect evidence properly, which resulted in the charges getting thrown out.Whatever the case, you must still live with your injuries and their impacts, while the drunk driver is subject to no legal consequences for deciding to drink and drive. Does that make a difference?
The criminal conviction of an inebriated driver is a separate matter that does not change the compensation you can receive in a civil lawsuit, so a lack of criminal conviction will not change the compensation you receive for your accident. As long as the police deem the other driver liable for the accident in their police report – or your attorney finds evidence proving the other driver caused the accident – you will still receive full compensation for your injuries.
Make sure you work with an experienced Houston drunk driving accident attorney, especially if the police do not convict the other driver of driving while intoxicated! Our Houston drunk driving accident attorneys can help protect your rights.
How much compensation can I get for a Houston drunk driving accident?
You deserve the same compensation for a drunk driving accident that you deserve for severe injuries in any other type of auto accident – if not more. Texas drivers must carry a minimum of $30,000 in bodily injury liability coverage insurance. Some drivers may carry plans that offer higher levels of compensation, especially if you suffer injuries in an accident with a drunk commercial truck driver.
Most people who file Houston drunk driving accident claims include the following:
- Medical expenses. Drunk driving accidents often come with serious injuries. Your medical bills can add up fast, from emergency care to medications to physical/occupational therapy. Some injuries may also have lifelong consequences that lead to the need for ongoing medical care. An attorney can help you track and prove all your medical expenses.
- Lost wages. You may have to miss time at work to deal with your injuries, meaning you miss out on paychecks when you need them the most. Chronic pain might limit the work you can do, or you may need surgeries or procedures later that cause you to miss even more work. Even when you can physically return, you may have still more appointments and therapies that interfere with your normal work schedule. Fortunately, you can include all of those lost wages as part of your Houston drunk driving accident claim.
- Pain and suffering. We know your injuries leave you with more than just financial losses to deal with. You may have ongoing pain from your injuries or suffer because you can no longer engage in activities or social interactions you once enjoyed. Your emotional turmoil is as real and valid as the physical harm you’ve suffered, and you deserve compensation for those losses, too. Contact a Houston drunk driving accident attorney to get a better idea of how your pain and suffering can impact the compensation you deserve for your injuries.
Who bears liability in a drunk driving accident?
You know a drunk driver caused your accident, but does anyone else share liability? Who else might be held accountable?
If the drunk driver carries minimum liability insurance, that can severely limit the compensation you receive for your injuries. But if your accident attorney helps identify another liable party, you may have grounds for a claim against that party, too. This means a higher settlement amount for you.
Examples of other at-fault parties include the bar or restaurant that over-served the drunk driver, or a bar or restaurant that chose to serve a minor who then went on to cause an accident. Texas law prohibits the sale or service of alcohol to a minor. It also prohibits selling to someone who is already intoxicated. A bar or restaurant that fails to uphold these duties may bear partial liability for any accident caused by the inebriated individual.
Other factors may also contribute to drunk driving accidents, including poor vehicle repair or mechanical failure. An employer whose drunk driver caused an accident may also bear partial liability for that accident.
Contact an attorney to determine whether any of these factors contributed to your accident – and how they could contribute to the compensation you deserve for your injuries.
What should you do after an accident with a drunk driver in Houston?
You were hit by a drunk driver in Houston. Now what?
At the scene of the accident, do not accept fault. Avoid making any statement that may be interpreted as accepting liability for the accident at any time. If you or someone in your vehicle can comfortably move around the scene of the accident without putting yourself in danger or worsening your injuries, try to collect evidence. This can help your case.
Your top priority should be to dial 911. Police and EMTs will respond to the scene. Police will be able to generate a crash report and assess the conditions of the drivers in question.
If you’re able, you should try to collect the following while you wait for responders:
- Witness information. Witnesses can help testify to a drunk driver’s behavior, including signs of inebriation behind the wheel.
- Photos of the accident scene. Photos can help show who caused the accident. Snap pictures before you have to move your vehicle, or precious evidence could be lost forever.
- Contact information for the liable driver. Take photos of the other driver’s license, plates, and insurance information so you have them on hand later.
Make sure you accept proper medical treatment after any car accident. A doctor can detect severe life-threatening injuries you might not even notice, including traumatic brain injuries, chest contusions, organ damage, and spinal cord damage. A visit to the emergency room or an urgent care center will also provide clear evidence of when your accident took place, which can prevent the other party from suggesting that you suffered your injuries at some other time.
If you need help getting connected to the medical care you need, contact our Houston drunk driving accident attorneys. We may be able to get you the treatment you need, at no upfront cost.
The drunk driver’s insurance company offered me a settlement. Should I take it?
Absolutely not. Accepting a settlement offer means you absolve the insurance company or liable driver of any future financial liability for the accident.If the insurance company offers you a fair and reasonable settlement, that works in everyone’s favor: you get the money you deserve, and the insurance company does not have to worry about future expenses coming its way from you.
However, the problem is the insurance company doesn’t play fair. Their initial settlement offer will only be a fraction of what you really deserve. The insurance adjuster wants to reduce the company’s financial liability and discharge its responsibility following the accident as quickly as possible. Don’t fall for it.
Contact our Houston drunk driving accident attorneys before accepting any settlement offer. With years of experience in drunk driving cases, we can advise you about when to accept and when to keep negotiating.
The drunk driver clearly caused my accident. Do I really need an attorney?
Yes! Even if it’s obvious that a drunk driver caused your accident, you still need an attorney to help you file your claim and maximize your settlement. An experienced Houston drunk driving accident attorney can help you collect all evidence related to who caused the accident and build a strong case.
A drunk driving attorney will also:
- Make sure you understand the compensation you deserve. Many accident victims do not know how much compensation they really deserve for their injuries. An attorney will ensure that you understand how much you are entitled to when you’ve been hit by a drunk driver.
- Help increase the odds that you will get that compensation. A Houston drunk driving accident attorney cannot guarantee compensation after an accident, but working with an experienced law firm will substantially increase your odds.
- Take some of the stress off your shoulders. Your injuries leave you with enough to deal with following a severe accident. Why not lighten the load? Put the responsibility for handling the insurance company and dealing with negotiations into the hands of an experienced Houston drunk driving accident attorney. This will reduce your stress and let you focus on what matters most: your recovery.
- Fight for you in court, if needed. If your claim needs to go to court in order to get the compensation you deserve, a Houston drunk driving accident attorney will fight on your behalf. You need this peace of mind during this incredibly difficult time in your life.
If your life was damaged by a drunk driver, call the attorneys at Stewart J. Guss, Injury Accident Lawyers and talk about it. Do not sign anything until you speak with us, because you risk losing some or all of the compensation to which you are entitled.
Stewart Guss and his team will do everything possible to obtain the best possible recovery on your claim, and we take pride in treating our clients like family. To schedule a free case evaluation with the attorneys of Stewart J. Guss, Injury Accident Lawyers, call today at 800-898-4877 or send us an email through our online contact form. Remember—you pay us nothing up front when we take your case, and you pay us nothing unless and until we’ve won your recovery.