On Friday night, an SUV driven by 27-year-old Jonathan Mendez was allegedly involved in a minor collision. It happened at about 9:30 p.m., near the intersection of Hempstead Highway and West Tidwell Road. Rather than stop and provide information, Mendez reportedly sped away from the scene. Later, at the intersection of Leghorn Street and Guhn Road, he lost control of the vehicle. He left the roadway and hit a tree, killing his female passenger. Mendez was taken to the hospital, and now he faces charges of intoxicated manslaughter for the death of the passenger.
This incident tragically underscores the inexcusable danger of two very risky behaviors: first, driving while intoxicated; and, second, fleeing the scene of a wreck. Today, there is simply no excuse for driving while intoxicated. With the likely availability of a designated driver, and the nearly universal availability of taxicabs or Ubers, no one has any justification for getting behind the wheel when he has been drinking. In this case, for instance, Mendez was involved in not one, but two crashes, when he had no business driving at all. We can imagine that he fled because he did not want to be charged with driving while intoxicated. But, rather than face the lesser charges of his alleged violation of the law, he evidently thought he could “get away with it.” And, now, he instead faces much more serious charges, and someone who entrusted herself to him is dead.
Motorists who wish to be safe from irresponsible drivers expect the criminal law system to deal as firmly with Mendez as justice requires. But that will provide no compensation for the family of the deceased. They will doubtlessly be limited to his insurance proceeds, which may provide minimum limits, if Mendez had any coverage at all. It is time for the criminal justice system to do what it can to stop drivers like this. And it is also time for our Legislature or Department of Insurance to recognize that the minimum limits of coverage in Texas is woefully inadequate to compensate people for the horrific damages often imposed by negligent drivers.
If you or someone you know has been injured in an auto accident caused by an intoxicated driver, contact an attorney at Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Agosto, Aziz & Stogner by calling (713) 222-7211 or toll free at 713-222-7211.