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One out of every three Americans will be involved in an alcohol-related traffic accident in their lifetime. According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving, 29.1 million persons admitted driving drunk in 2012 — which is greater than the population of Texas. In 2013, 10,076 persons were killed in drunk driving crashes in the United States, an average of 28 deaths every day and accounting for almost 40 percent of America’s traffic deaths. Since 1982, more than half a million Americans have been killed by drunk drivers, more than all Americans killed by all foreign enemies in all wars since World War I.
The Texas Department of Transportation reports the Dallas-Fort Worth area has had the highest number of drunk driving crashes and deaths. But the Houston area leads Dallas County, and San Antonio has the highest per capita rate of drunk driving.
Over 85,000 persons were arrested for drunk driving in Texas in 2011. That means they had blood alcohol content, or BAC, of 0.08 or higher, the standard set by Texas law.
Independently of BAC, a driver can be considered driving while intoxicated if he or she is impaired in any way. This can happen after downing two or three drinks in one hour, although for women and teens, just one or two drinks in an hour can produce a 0.08 BAC.
Sadly, many drunk drivers and victims are young. Auto accidents are the No. 1 cause of teen death, and over 30% of them involve drunk driving.
If someone in your family was injured or killed by a drunk driver, contact our law firm at once. With over 40 years of experience helping injured Texans, we can fight for your legal right to financial recovery for your losses, including medical costs, funeral expenses, lost present and future earnings, loss of companionship and pain and suffering.
Who can be sued for financial compensation in a drunk driving lawsuit? Our DWI attorneys and DUI lawyers can seek payments for your family from a variety of sources.
A DUI lawsuit can target the driver who drove drunk and was arrested for intoxication assault or intoxication manslaughter. This may involve legal action against the drunk driver’s insurance company, provided he or she was insured.
Also, if the drunk driver was at the wheel of a commercial vehicle for an employer, then that employer can be held liable for a drunk driving injury or death caused by that employee.
DWI lawsuits also can target those who served or sold the alcohol that made the driver intoxicated, particularly if the driver was under the legal drinking age. This can be done by means of applying “dram shop” laws.
What’s more, if parents hosted an event at which teens were served alcohol and one of those teens then caused a DWI injury or death, those parents are legally liable by means of “social hosting” laws.
Families of persons killed by drunk drivers in Texas can file a wrongful death lawsuit against a drunk driver and his or her insurer. Such a lawsuit can claim payments for funeral costs, medical bills before the victim’s death, loss of future earnings, loss of parental guidance or consortium for a spouse, counseling costs and the victim’s pain and suffering.
Texas juries are prone to punish drunk drivers by giving exemplary and punitive damages to survivors pressing a wrongful death lawsuit. This constitutes a civil lawsuit and would be separate from a criminal trial.
After a drunk driving injury, victims filing a civil lawsuit can seek not just compensatory damages to pay for monetary losses but also punitive damages as punishment of a drunk driver’s gross negligence. Drunk drivers also may face separate criminal charges.
Texas law defines gross negligence as “more than momentary thoughtlessness, inadvertence or error of judgment. It means such an entire want of care as to establish that the act or omission in question was the result of actual conscious indifference to the rights, welfare or safety of the persons affected by it.”
Drivers can be expected to know that driving while intoxicated is a choice — a choice by which a driver knowingly endangers others. That makes it qualify as grossly negligent behavior.
An injury lawyer can seek exemplary damages, which include punitive damages, to punish the driver for this gross negligence.
The amount of punitive damages is a judgment based on the nature of the case and is in the hands of the court. Courts often award punitive damages in crashes caused by drunk drivers.
Compensatory damages are separate and are derived from actual costs to the victim, such as medical expenses, lost future and present salary and pain and suffering.
Even if a driver is deemed drunk when causing an accident, his or her insurance company may fight back against a civil lawsuit seeking punitive and compensatory damages. One of the chief ways to do that is for the DUI/DWI driver’s insurer to assert comparative or contributory negligence in the crash. This means it will hold the victim at least partly at fault.
Texas adheres to comparative negligence law, as do an additional 32 states. A Texas lawsuit involving comparative negligence means a victim can be considered up to 51% responsible for their injuries and still recover damages, but only for the remaining amount. That is, if a victim is held 25% responsible for a crash, the victim can receive 75% of the damages inflicted.
Collecting evidence in a DUI case can involve getting audio recordings of 911 calls, video footage of drivers failing field sobriety tests and police records of the drunk driving arrest.
According to the Texas District and County Attorneys Association, DUI evidence can be divided into four groups: evidence of drinking, evidence of guilt, objective evidence and subjective evidence.
Evidence of drinking can be simply the smell of alcohol, tavern receipts, open containers in a vehicle and other easily identifiable indicators.
Evidence of guilt can be a defendant’s refusal to submit a breath or blood sample, but that may not be sufficient to establish guilt. More evidence of guilt may be needed, such as fleeing the scene of a crash.
Objective evidence is available only with a blood or breath sample from the driver which establishes a BAC, or blood alcohol concentration, of .08 or more. This is the threshold which each state applies to define intoxication.
Subjective evidence involves indicators of intoxication such as loss of the normal use of physical and mental faculties. Subjective evidence can include trouble following instructions and poor performance on field sobriety tests.
If your family was victimized by a drunk driver, contact our law firm today for a free legal review to help you size up your chances for a successful DUI lawsuit. If you choose to proceed, we can provide you with a knowledgeable and experienced drunk driving accident attorney for your case — and we won’t charge you from your pocket.
That’s because Jim Adler & Associates works on a contingency fee basis, meaning we aren’t paid unless we win for you, and even then are paid just a portion of the settlement amount. It’s also unlikely your case will go to trial, since most personal injury lawsuits are resolved by out-of-court settlements.
So let us hear from you today, by using the form on this page or calling our toll-free number.