Drunk driving is not only against the law, it is also dangerous. The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) estimates more than 1,000 persons died as a result of drivers who were under the influence of alcohol on Texas roads in 2017. Over 1,500 alcohol-related crashes occurred in Travis County in 2017 with 34 fatal crashes and several hundred crashes resulting in injury. Although the general trend of drinking and driving has decreased over the decades, Texas motorists still remain at risk because of those that continue to get behind the wheel while under the influence of alcohol.
If you or a loved one were injured because of a drunk driver, Texas law might entitle you to compensation for your injuries. Although no amount of money will erase the past, recovering your losses after a drunk driving accident will help alleviate the financial hardship that often accompanies a serious accident. Contact the legal team at The Offices of George Salinas in Austin at (512) 851-1004 to learn about how we can help you get the compensation you deserve.
Frequently Occurring Drunk Driving Crashes
A drunk driver can cause a variety of accidents. Sometimes, an intoxicated driver hits a pedestrian or cyclist with his car. Frequently, a drunk driver’s car collides with another motor vehicle. When these collisions happen, they most frequently involve:
- Head-on crashes. Drunk drivers often have difficulty staying in their lane, putting cars and trucks traveling in the opposite direction at risk. The force of these collisions can be massive. Two cars that collide head-on while traveling at 50 miles per hour in opposite directions absorb the same impact as one of them hitting a brick wall at 100 miles per hour.
- Rear-end crashes. Drivers who are under the influence of alcohol lose their ability to judge time and distance. They often follow other vehicles too close and step on the brakes too late to avoid rear-ending the car in front of them. Drunk drivers also often exceed the speed limit, which further reduces their reaction time and increases the severity of these crashes.
- Wrong-way crashes. Drunk drivers also struggle to read signs and traffic signals. On city streets this might result in a driver traveling the wrong direction on a one-way street. When drunk drivers travel the wrong way on a divided highway or interstate, it’s usually because they mistook an exit for an on-ramp. These mistakes often lead to catastrophic head-on collisions.
Recovering Damages After a Drunk Driving Accident in Austin
As in most states, in Texas the first step most drunk driving accident victims can take to recover compensation for their injuries and property damage (to their car, for example) is to file a claim with the drunk driver’s insurance company. Just because you can file that claim without the help of an attorney, however, doesn’t mean you should.
In cases involving personal injuries, an experienced drunk driving accident attorney can help ensure that victims recover the maximum compensation available. This may involve engaging in aggressive negotiation with insurance companies and, when necessary, going to court. The damages that an attorney can usually help a drunk driving accident victim in Texas recover include:
- Punitive damages to punish the liable party if that party caused intentional harm or acted with gross negligence
- Lost wages due to time missed at work related to an injury
- Future lost wages when an injury causes permanent damages that prevent a victim from returning to work in a previous capacity
- Medical costs including ambulance services, emergency room visits, hospital stays, radiology, surgery, prescription medications, and more
- Future medical expenses including aftercare and long-term healthcare for injuries that require extensive recovery or result in permanent disability
- Rehabilitation costs such as physical therapist visits and assistive devices like wheelchairs and canes
- Non-economic damages such as pain and suffering, loss of consortium, scarring and disfigurement or other types that apply to a particular case
If you have lost a child or other loved one in a drunk driving accident, you may be able to recover many of the same damages, as well as funeral and burial expenses. Discuss your situation with one of our experienced wrongful death attorneys to determine the best path forward for your family.
Comparative Fault in Texas Drunk Driving Accident Cases
Those parties named as defendants in a lawsuit often resist paying claims or damages. Instead, they use strategies to shift the blame away from themselves and onto other parties, especially onto the plaintiff. That is because in Texas, when the plaintiff’s own actions may have contributed to the accident happening, the law applies what is known as a “modified comparative fault rule” to determining the amount of damages the plaintiff can receive. This means that the court reduces the amount of damages available to a plaintiff by the percentage of the plaintiff’s fault. For example, if you prove you suffered $1,000,000 in damages and the court finds you were 30 percent to blame for the accident, the maximum award you may recover will be reduced by 30 percent to $700,000.
In addition, in Texas, a plaintiff who was 51 percent or more at fault for causing an accident cannot recover any damages.
These modified comparative fault rules motivate insurance companies and other defendants to prove that the victim partially or fully caused the accident. Some common defense tactics to avoid liability include:
- Suggesting that the victim was also driving under the influence or breaking other traffic laws
- Undervaluing or downplaying injuries
- Suggesting that the accident did not cause the injury, but instead the victim was injured elsewhere
- Arguing against the value of non-economic damages
A skilled personal injury attorney knows these strategies and will be prepared to respond to them and achieve the maximum possible damages award.
Contact an Experienced Austin Drunk Driving Accident Attorney
If you or a loved one have been injured or if a loved one died in a drunk driving accident, you shouldn’t have to shoulder the emotional and financial burden that comes with serious injury or death all alone. Let an attorney tend to your legal rights while you concentrate on recovery, healing, and coping during this difficult time. Contact one of our compassionate and knowledgeable lawyers in Austin at The Law Offices of George Salinas at (512) 851-1004 for a free consultation to discuss your next steps. If you choose us to represent you, we handle personal injury cases on contingency, only collecting attorney fees from any compensation that we secure for you.
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