Understanding Available Options For Financial Compensation After A Drunk Driver Causes Serious Injuries, Fatal Injuries And Property Damage
In 2011, alcohol-related accidents in Texas claimed more than 1,000 lives. According to the Texas Department of Transportation (TXDOT), more than 400 people in other vehicles, pedestrians, cyclists and passengers in the impaired driver's car were killed in a drunk driving accident. In other words, drunk drivers are seriously injuring or fatally injuring many others besides themselves when they choose to drink and drive.
The tragedy of an alcohol-related crash cannot be overstated. It is the result of one or several bad decisions, by the driver that drove after drinking or the business that sold him or her the beer or liquor, that have a profoundly negative impact on innocent people. Already this year, at least one Houston area family was torn apart by a drunk driver who decided to ignore barricades on the Southwest Freeway that were set up to protect towing company workers trying to remove a disabled vehicle from the roadway.
The impaired driver struck the disabled vehicle, a Corolla, pushing it into and underneath the towing company's flatbed wrecker. One of the men from the towing company had just gotten into the car to assist with loading it onto the wrecker's flatbed; he was fatally injured when the Corolla was crushed beneath the flatbed truck. The impaired driver now faces criminal charges of intoxication manslaughter and intoxicated assault.
While a conviction might bring justice to the man's family, it will not bring him back; nothing will. But the family, and anyone else who is seriously injured or loses a loved one in a DUI crash, does have legal options to obtain compensation for their loss through a civil lawsuit against the impaired driver, his or her insurance company or their own insurance if the drunk driver was uninsured or underinsured. In some instances, the surviving family or person injured by a drunk driver may have a claim against the business, such as a bar, restaurant or package store, that sold the beer or alcohol to the drunk driver as well.
Beyond The Criminal Justice System: Financial Justice For Families Torn Apart By A Drunk Driver
At 2,657, there were more drunk driving crashes in Harris County than in any other county in Texas in 2011, according to TXDOT. More than 900 people were seriously injured and more than 150 were fatally injured in crashes involving impaired drivers in the Houston area.
When innocent people are forced to pay for the actions of an impaired driver with their lives or their health, there are legal remedies to force the drunk driver to bear all or most of the financial burden through a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit. Texas allows recovery for:
- Medical expenses, including future medical expenses for long-term or ongoing care
- Lost wages or lost earnings
- Lost earning capacity
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of enjoyment of life, meaning physical impairments that restrict the quality of life and the continuing ability to complete everyday activities
- Permanent scarring or disfigurement
- Funeral expenses
- Counseling services, including grief counseling
In addition to the damages listed above, Texas allows those who have been injured by a drunk driver or family members who have lost a loved one in a drunk driving crash to recover punitive damages against the impaired driver. These damages are intended to further punish the driver for the choices he or she made after you have been forced to live with the consequences of those choices. Punitive damages are also intended to serve as a warning to others not to drink and drive.
Dram Shop Liability In Texas
In addition to a civil lawsuit against an impaired driver and his or her insurance company, Texas allows drunk driving accident victims to pursue a legal claim against a bar, restaurant, liquor store or other business that sold alcohol to the impaired driver. This is called a dram shop liability lawsuit.
A Texas business can be held responsible for injuries or wrongful death caused by a drunk driver if it:
- Served alcohol to a visibly intoxicated person who presented a clear danger to himself or herself as well as to others
- Served alcohol to a minor who then caused a drunk driving crash
A dram shop liability action can be brought in addition to any legal claims a victim and his or her family may have against the driver and the driver's insurance. If a business overserves an intoxicated patron or serves a minor, that business can be held financially responsible for any resulting property damage, physical injuries or wrongful death caused by the drunk driver.
Contact An Attorney To Discuss Your Options After A Texas Drunk Driving Crash
The first step to take after any motor vehicle accident is to seek necessary medical attention. Take care of your own health before worrying about anything else. But there are time limits for filing a personal injury lawsuit, wrongful death lawsuit or dram shop liability lawsuit in Texas that typically begin to run from the date of the accident. Do not wait too long to seek the advice of an experienced drunk driving accident attorney about your legal rights after a crash.