You’re a careful driver. You practice defensive driving techniques, and you never get behind the wheel if you’re anything less than sober. Of course you expect the same level of responsibility from other Texas drivers.
You also expect the establishments who serve alcohol in our state will know when to cut off a tipsy patron before they hit the road… but far too often, they don’t, and innocent people like you pay an enormous price in the form of a drunk driving accident.
Pain from the collision won’t go away, and neither will the calls for payment from the hospital. Maybe you’re facing additional bills for follow-up appointments and therapy. Maybe your car is wrecked. You can’t possibly come up with the cash to cover all of those expenses, even if your injuries haven’t put you out of work. You may feel hopeless.
That’s when you need to call the team of Texas personal injury accident lawyers and legal professionals at Stewart J. Guss, Attorney at Law.
If a drunk driver caused your injuries, we believe you shouldn’t have to pay for them. Texas law agrees with us. Our Texas law firm is just a phone call or email away, and we’re ready to help you seek justice from that drunk driver right now.
We are a national law firm based in Houston with multiple offices around the country. We also work with affiliate law firms in most states who share our focus and dedication to excellence. No matter where you’re located, we may be able to help you, so reach out now. We’re open 24/7 to provide 100% free consultations, so call 800-898-4877 or contact us online TODAY.
Meanwhile, if you were injured in an accident caused by a drunk driver, read on for more information about this dangerous driving practice, the injuries it causes, and how accident victims in Texas can be fairly compensated.
The Dangers of Drunk Driving
A child died and another required emergency surgery to treat critical injuries after a recent Texas accident. Authorities reported that the accident occurred when a Mercedes-Benz ML3 broadsided a Hummer H3. The Mercedes allegedly struck the Hummer’s passenger side, causing injury to the two children. A nine-year-old girl succumbed to her injuries several days later. The 34-year-old driver of the Mercedes was subsequently arrested for drunk driving, which police believe contributed to the accident.
Sadly, Texas drunk driving accidents like this one are far too common. In fact, more than a quarter of the fatalities in Texas traffic accidents involve a drunk driver! The numbers definitely sync up with our hard-partying habits: the most common time for a drunk driving accident in the state is between 2 a.m and 3 a.m, and the most common day of the week for this type of accident to occur is on Saturday.
With one person dying every 50 minutes in the U.S. as a result of alcohol-related traffic accidents, drunk driving is one of the most dangerous driving behaviors of all.
Alcohol causes negative effects on a person’s central nervous system, impacting many of the skills that drivers need to safely operate their motor vehicles. While the legal driver blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit is 0.08, the impairment of driving skills begins long before a person reaches that level of intoxication. In fact, a person’s ability to track moving targets and multitask are already affected after just one drink!
Here’s a look at the increasing impacts of alcohol impairment:
- At 0.02 BAC (around one drink), a person experiences some loss of judgment and an altered mood.
- At 0.05 BAC, the person experiences impaired judgment, some difficulty focusing their eyes, difficulty detecting danger, reduced coordination, difficulty steering, and a delayed response to emergency situations. (Even with all of these impacts, they’re still legal to drive!)
- At 0.08 BAC, most people experience poor muscle coordination resulting in slurred speech, and difficulties with balance, reaction time, seeing, and hearing. The person loses the ability to concentrate on the tasks of driving or controlling their speed. They also experience short-term memory deficits and impaired perception.
- At 0.10 BAC, all of the same deficits exist as those listed at 0.08 BAC, but sprinkle in some more weaving in and out of lanes.
- At 0.15 BAC, a person experiences substantial impairment that may involve vomiting. The person has extreme difficulty maintaining control of the vehicle, and all of their necessary audio and visual processing capabilities are significantly affected.
The bottom line is this: alcohol impairment increases the risk of an auto accident. A variety of accidents may occur, including:
- Broadside accidents, also known as T-bone collisions, usually occur in intersections. These accidents involve the front of one vehicle striking the side of another.
- Head-on crashes can result from driving the wrong direction, as well as the force of one collision causing a vehicle to enter the opposing traffic lane and cause a secondary crash.
- Rear-end crashes, in which the front of one vehicle slams into the rear of another vehicle.
- Side-swipe crashes, in which one vehicle drifts or swerves into an adjacent lane of travel, causing the side of the vehicle to strike the side of another vehicle.
- Rollover accidents can happen when a drunk driver takes a corner or sharp curve at high speed, runs off the road, or hits something on the road which causes the vehicle to overturn.
Portrait of a Drunk Driver
Any driver in any age demographic can be alcohol-impaired and involved in a crash. However, crash statistics indicate that drunk drivers are more likely to have the following characteristics:
- Male. Around 21% of men involved in fatal crashes are alcohol-impaired (with a BAC of 0.08 or higher), as compared to around 14% of women. There are four male drunk drivers involved in a fatal crash for every one female drunk driver.
- Twenty-something. 27% of drivers between the ages of 21 and 24 who are involved in a fatal crash are alcohol-impaired at the time of the crash, as well as 25% of drivers between the ages of 25 and 34.
- Binge drinking. Binge drinking involves downing several drinks—five for men, four for women—in a short period of time. Binge drinking is involved in around 85% of drinking and driving episodes.
Alcohol-Related Crashes Cost Billions
Even if an accident doesn’t cost you your life, it costs you – and others – big bucks. The economic impact of alcohol-related crashes in the U.S. is estimated to be around $44 billion a year. Included in this figure are costs related to:
- Lost productivity due to injuries and deaths caused by alcohol-impaired driving.
- Workplace losses due to workers who are too injured to work after drunk driving accidents.
- Legal expenses and court costs resulting from personal injury claims and criminal court processes for drunk drivers.
- Medical costs relating to drunk driving accident injuries.
- Emergency medical dispatch services at drunk driving crash scenes.
- The administration of insurance payouts from settlements or awards in drunk driving accidents.
- Property damage, including damage to vehicles as well as damage to guard rails, storefronts, and other physical property damaged during the accidents.
Can This Type of Accident Be Avoided?
Drunk driving crashes are always preventable with the exercise of just a little responsibility on the part of people who chose to drink wether its a truck accident or a car accident its still on the person who chooses to get behind the wheel drunk.
People who drink simply should NOT drive. This is not up for debate. Always arrange a designated driver well before you begin drinking, whether that means a reliable sober friend, a taxi, or a rideshare app. If this falls through, don’t risk driving. Stay put and sleep it off. If you don’t take these precautions, you are liable for the injuries you cause.
Hosts who know that someone is planning to drive after drinking must prevent them from doing so—and yes, this includes bartenders and waitstaff at bars and restaurants. Hosts need to take the keys of guests and help them to arrange a ride or allow them to stay with them until they have had a chance to sober up. Bartenders and waitresses have a responsibility not to overserve their patrons. If not, hosts, restaurants, bars, and other establishments that allow people to drive drunk may face liability for the car accidents that result.
Another friendly reminder: always wear your seat belt. While wearing a seat belt will not prevent a drunk driving crash from occurring, it can reduce your risk of serious injury as the result of a drunk driving crash.
When you’re on the road, you may encounter another driver who is drifting in and out of lanes or exhibiting other behaviors that indicate possible alcohol impairment, such as:
- Unnecessarily wide turns
- Straddling the center lane
- Nearly hitting an object or another vehicle
- Driving at excessively slow or fast speeds
- Stopping for no reason
- Driving in the dark with no headlights
- Abrupt or illegal turns
- A slow response to traffic signals
If so, get out of the path of that individual, pull over, and report the driver to local authorities. You could save someone’s life!
Recovering Damages After a Drunk Driving Crash
If you were injured or if you lost a loved one in a drunk driving crash in Texas, you can seek to recover damages through a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit. A brief explanation of these types of legal claims:
If you were injured in an accident in Texas that a drunk driver caused, a personal injury claim can help you recover the compensation you need – and deserve.
A personal injury claim is a lawsuit that you file in civil court. With the guidance and assistance of an experienced car accident attorney, you can establish a value for your case based on the injuries you have experienced and the expenses—both economic and non-economic—you have incurred as a result of your injuries.
These expenses, also known as damages, can include:
- Medical expenses, including emergency medical treatment at the scene of the accident as well as in the emergency department, transport to the hospital by ambulance or air, hospitalization, physician services, diagnostic testing, surgical services, prescription medication, physical therapy, and rehabilitation.
- Lost income as a result of being too injured to work or needing to miss work to attend injury-related medical appointments.
- Loss of future earning capacity resulting from permanent disability or a modification of your job duties.
- Property damage, such as the cost of repairing or replacing the vehicle you were driving at the time of the accident. Additionally, you may claim expenses for your rental car while waiting on repairs.
- Non-economic costs to your life, such as physical pain and suffering, emotional distress, loss of consortium, and loss of enjoyment of life.
There is a statue of limitations in Texas for personal injury lawsuits. Generally, personal injury lawsuits must be filed within two years of the accident in Texas, with some exceptions in cases involving injured minors. Ask your attorney if any exceptions could apply to your case.
Texas has the highest number of traffic-related crashes in the nation. It also has the highest number of fatal crashes as a result of alcohol impairment. If you have lost a loved one in a Texas drunk driving crash, a wrongful death lawsuit can help you find closure and recover compensation from the at-fault party.
Like personal injury claims, wrongful death claims in Texas have a statute of limitations. Wrongful death claims must be filed within two years of the date when the death occurred.
To recover damages related to a wrongful death, you must be related to the deceased in one of the following ways:
- The legal spouse of the deceased
- The surviving adult or minor child of the deceased
- The deceased’s parents
- The personal representative of the deceased’s estate
The damages that you may collect through a wrongful death claim include:
- Medical expenses related to treatment of the deceased’s final injuries
- Funeral expenses and burial expenses
- Pain and suffering of the deceased due to their final injuries, from the moment of the injury until their death
- Lost wages the deceased would’ve contributed to the household
- Loss of support and care that was provided by the deceased to family members
- Loss of comfort and companionship experienced by the deceased’s family members
- Lost inheritance, which is funds that the deceased would have passed on to their children had they lived long enough to continue earning – and retire from – their chosen career
Texas Drunk Driving Accident FAQ
Not only is drunk driving illegal in Texas and every other state, it’s also incredibly dangerous. Driving while impaired is an irresponsible act that increases the risks of an accident for everyone else on the roadway. The Texas Department of Transportation reports that the majority of Texas drunk drivers fall between the ages of 21 and 25 years old, and more than 40% of Texas drunk drivers are between the ages of 21 and 40. No matter their age, they should know better.
When their reckless behavior behind the wheel causes harm to someone else, we’re here to see that justice is served.
Victims who have suffered injuries in a Texas drunk driving accident have a legal right to seek compensation for damages related to the accident and their injuries. We believe injured victims and their families shouldn’t have to cope with medical bills, missing work, and the pain and suffering caused by a negligent driver guilty of drinking and driving.
A skilled Texas drunk driving accident lawyer at the office of Stewart J. Guss, Attorney at Law can review your case for free and help you file a claim or lawsuit, if necessary. Until injured victims have the chance to consult with our law firm, our guide below provides answers to many frequently asked questions about drunk driving accidents in Texas.
How soon after a Texas drunk driving accident do I have to file a claim?
A drunk driving accident must be reported to the injured victim’s insurance company as soon as possible. In addition, victims must also promptly file a claim with the drunk driver’s insurance carrier.
Should victims decide to pursue a Texas drunk driving accident lawsuit against the driver, the statute of limitations in Texas requires victims to file their complaint within two years of the date of the accident. State courts require strict compliance with the time limits outlined by the statute of limitations.
In most cases, accident victims who try to take legal action beyond the two-year time limit will be barred from seeking compensation, regardless of the strength of the case. Injured victims should consider contacting a lawyer as soon as possible after an accident to avoid missing important deadlines.
Who pays the medical bills after a Texas drunk driver injures me?
Individuals are financially liable for their own medical bills regardless of the causes of their injuries. Although insurance policy coverage varies, most policies will initially cover at least a portion of an injured victim’s medical expenses following an accident. The costs of medical treatment, especially emergency care, can be significant. Often, families who face extensive medical bills may have to file for bankruptcy. At the very least, these unexpected medical costs will be a stressful burden for victims of drunk driving accidents and their families.
Reimbursement for medical bills related to an accident typically comes from the drunk driver’s insurance company in the form of a settlement or jury award. In either case, an attorney may work with a victim’s treatment providers to defer payment for their pending medical bills until their claim is resolved.
However, deferring payment for medical bills pending the resolution of a Texas drunk driving accident claim may affect a victim’s credit score. Victims should use personal resources to pay their medical bills if they are able. In addition, they should communicate with their treatment providers about their impending legal claims. Leaving medical treatment costs unpaid after a drunk driving accident can destroy victims’ credit, adding even more frustration to coping with a negligent drunk driver’s actions.
What damages can I recover after a Texas drunk driving accident?
Texas law permits drunk driving accident victims to claim damages in civil court after a drunk driver causes harm. If the driver’s insurance company offers a fair settlement or the court rules in favor of the plaintiff, accident victims receive compensation for damages related to their injuries.
Settlements and jury awards that compensate drunk driving accident victims cover damages related to:
- Medical expenses such as ambulance service, emergency room treatment, hospitalization. Lab testing, radiology, surgery, aftercare, medication, and travel to and from the hospital and/or doctor’s office may also be included.
- Estimated future medical expenses when a drunk driving accident causes severe injuries requiring multiple surgeries, extended recovery and rehabilitation, or a permanent condition or disability that requires ongoing treatment.
- Costs for rehabilitation including physical therapy, occupational therapy, psychological therapy.
- Costs for assistive technology and devices including special computer programs for communication, wheelchairs, crutches, walkers, and canes.
- Lost wages due to missing work as a result of injuries, hospitalization, rehabilitation, and recovery.
- Estimated future lost wages when a drunk driving accident leads to a severe injury preventing an accident victim from returning to their former job or working in the future.
- Physical and emotional pain and suffering.
- Reduced quality of life.
- Loss of consortium with a spouse.
- Scarring and disfigurement when amputations or permanent scars occur from drunk driving accident injuries.
Can I receive exemplary damages for my Texas drunk driving injuries?
Texas law only allows for exemplary damages under specific circumstances. Exemplary damages, sometimes referred to as punitive damages, punish the defendant and act to deter future egregious behavior. Under Texas law, courts may only award exemplary damages if the plaintiff proves fraud, malice, or gross negligence.
Depending on the circumstances of the drunk driving accident, a Texas court may find that a drunk driver acted with gross negligence, warranting an award of exemplary damages. However, injured victims must prove the circumstances of their accident warrant exemplary damages. If the drunk driver has a history of driving under the influence, it’s more likely the court will rule exemplary damages are appropriate. A Texas drunk driving lawyer can evaluate the circumstances of the case and advise victims on their eligibility for exemplary damages.
Drunk driving is a crime, so why do I have to sue to get damages?
The criminal and civil legal processes are entirely separate within the American court system. Drunk drivers who face criminal charges for their choices may be required to pay fines, have their license suspended or revoked, or endure jail time. Additionally, juries in criminal trials must find the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
Civil trials, on the other hand, assess whether a defendant’s acts – or failures to act – are negligent by a preponderance of the evidence. This standard asks jurors to determine fault by a lower standard than in criminal trials. Ultimately, jurors are asked to determine whether it is more likely than not that a defendant was negligent.
It’s not uncommon for criminal proceedings to end before civil proceedings begin. The outcome of any criminal proceeding will not impact the outcome of a victim’s civil case. However, some Texas drunk driving accident attorneys may want to wait for the resolution of criminal proceedings to help build their case in a civil action.
Can I sue the bar or restaurant that served alcohol to the Texas drunk driver who caused the accident?
Many states, including Texas, have “dram shop laws” that apply to businesses that serve alcohol. Dram shop laws govern the extent to which a business that serves alcohol may be responsible for the actions of an intoxicated person after they leave the establishment. You can find Texas’s dram shop laws in the state’s Alcoholic Beverage Code.
Texas law provides the following requirements for individuals to take legal action against a business who served alcohol to a drunk driver who caused an accident:
- The drunk driver must have been obviously intoxicated to the person serving alcohol, to the extent of presenting a danger to others or himself.
- The driver’s intoxication must have contributed to the accident and associated damages.
Social hosts as well as businesses may face liability for damages if they knowingly serve or provide alcoholic beverages to a minor. Even if they didn’t directly provide the alcohol, those who allow minors to become intoxicated may prove liable after any resulting accidents.
The Texas drunk driver who hit my car isn’t insured. Now what?
Short answer: call us.
Texas requires drivers to carry at least a minimum of bodily injury liability coverage unless they can prove they have the means to self-insure and pay for damages. If a drunk driver is not carrying the minimum coverage, or they do not have enough insurance to cover damages, victims have few resources for recovering damages.
However, there’s still hope.
Individuals with uninsured motorist and underinsured motorist coverage (UM/UIM coverage) may be reimbursed by their own insurance policy. Victims who do not have UM or UIM coverage may find themselves having to pay out-of-pocket for accident expenses.
Typically, uninsured drivers cannot afford insurance in the first place. Sometimes courts garnish wages to collect judgments for plaintiffs; the amount of money you receive could depend on the drunk driver’s employment.
My friend was driving drunk and I suffered injuries as a passenger. Can I sue?
Yes, injured victims can sue their friends for damages related to accident injuries. While some may feel awkward about pursuing a legal claim against a friend, it may be the only way they can secure compensation. The medical expenses and lost wages incurred as a result of a drunk driving accident can devastate passenger-victims. Victims must protect their future and avoid detrimental financial losses. Don’t think of it as punishing your friend. Think of it as what it is: having an attorney communicate with insurance companies to help you bounce back. It’s what they’re there for!
The amount of compensation a victim may receive can be decreased based on their choice to ride with a drunk driver. However, they may still be eligible to receive some compensation for medical expenses and other economic impacts associated with their injuries. A lawyer can evaluate the situation and advise victims of the potential outcome for their claims.
Do I have to testify in court after a Texas drunk driving accident?
Luckily most accident injury cases settle out of court without anyone having to step foot in a courtroom. Going to trial is an expensive proposition for both sides, and unless a major disagreement about liability exists, neither side wants to risk the cost. Still, sometimes negotiations fail, often because of a disagreement over liability or the true value of the claim. Although it’s difficult in drunk driving cases, the defense will nonetheless try to argue their client wasn’t negligent. Negotiations in drunk driving cases usually center around the value of a claim. If the defense refuses to offer fair compensation for the injuries, victims may have to tell their story in court.
How long will I have to wait for a settlement?
When filing a claim or lawsuit directly against a drunk driver, victims should not expect to collect compensation quickly, if at all. At times, Texas drunk driving accident claims can move quickly. In other cases, negotiations go awry, and a Texas drunk driving accident attorney may need to take the case to court. Scheduling court proceedings may delay the resolution of the case.
The time it takes to receive a settlement may hinge on multiple factors, including:
- The extent of the injuries. If you have suffered severe injuries from a drunk driving accident, you may need to wait if you want to recover as much compensation as possible. Lawyers need a clear idea of victims’ long-term prognosis to accurately assess the impact of their injuries on their lives.
- Liability disputes. Some drunk drivers argue they were not driving, or they were not impaired. It’s common for the defense to shift the blame to the other driver to reduce its value.
- How many people were involved in the accident. When multiple drivers and passengers are involved in a drunk driving accident there is more paperwork, more coordination with schedules, and more parties to pass blame around. Disagreements may pop up, and litigation may be necessary to resolve the dispute.
- Availability of witnesses. Lawyers on both sides rely on expert witnesses and eyewitnesses to support or defend their case. Taking witness statements and arranging testimony requires time, which means it could take longer for you to reach a settlement or proceed with litigation.
If you have sustained injuries in a Texas drunk driving accident, don’t sit idly by. Stand up and fight for the justice you deserve. Contact the experienced drunk driving accident lawyers at Stewart J. Guss, Attorney at Law, for a free consultation and case evaluation.
Let Our Texas Car Accident Attorneys Help You Right Now
While Texas law allows the recovery of the above damages through either a personal injury claim or a wrongful death lawsuit, these are not processes you want to tackle your own. Instead, hire our experienced drunk driving accident attorneys to help you pave the way on the path to justice.
A dedicated Texas drunk driving accident lawyer can provide services such as:
- Establishing the value of your case based on the injuries (or death) you have experienced, plus the accompanying costs and impacts that the accident has had on your life.
- Conducting an investigation of your case to determine all sources of potential liability, and uncovering associated insurance resources that can be used to compensate you.
- Filing a timely legal claim within the proper jurisdiction.
- Skillfully negotiating to ensure that you are offered the highest settlement possible in your case.
- Providing knowledgeable guidance and advice to help you decide whether a settlement offer is fair and whether you should accept it.
- Deposing witnesses and gathering evidence that will prove your claim.
- Litigating – in other words, taking your case to court if a fair settlement is not forthcoming.
- Assisting you in collecting your settlement or award from the defendant.
- Providing further representation if the defendant in your case files an appeal.
The legal team of Stewart J. Guss, Attorney at Law, is nationally recognized for protecting the rights of injured victims for more than 20 years. If a drunk driver in Texas has hurt you, call our office right now for a free consultation! Since we take all of our personal injury cases on a contingency fee basis, you pay us nothing unless we win your case. We are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, so call 800-898-4877 or contact us now by CLICKING HERE.
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