According to the Texas Department of Transportation, alcohol was a contributing factor in nearly 14,000 accidents in 2017. Victims of drunk driving accidents may suffer significant personal injuries, including property loss, lost wages or earning capacity, traumatic brain injuries, neck and back injuries, broken bones, internal bleeding, and even paralysis or permanent disability.
Fault in Drunk Driving Accidents
Under Texas law, anyone who drives with a blood alcohol level greater than 0.08 is driving impaired and subject to criminal charges. Additionally, all drivers have a duty of care to others on the road; an impaired driver who endangers other drivers, passengers, bicyclists, and pedestrians, is in breach of that duty. Therefore, drunk drivers may also have civil liability for the damages they cause to victims by their negligence.
While drunk driving is negligence per se (negligence in violation of statute) Texas is also a “comparative fault” state. This means that a victim of drunk driving may have the recovery of their damages limited if the evidence shows they themselves contributed in any way to the accident, such as by speeding or running a light. Under comparative negligence rules, a jury may assign percentages of fault that will reduce a victim’s total damages by their percentage of fault.
Damages in Drunk Driving Cases
Damages are designed to make a victim whole, or to put them in the position they were in before the accident that injured them. Victims of drunk drivers may file a personal injury lawsuit to recover for medical expenses, ongoing treatment, loss of wages, property repair or replacement, and other damages. Non-economic damages for pain and suffering, disfiguration, scarring, and loss of consortium, may also be awarded in certain cases. In extraordinary circumstances, some victims may be eligible for punitive damages. Punitive damages are very rare in civil cases; however, when the facts show egregious negligence, courts may order punitive damages for the purpose of punishing the defendant.
When a Drunk Driver Causes a Fatality
In the most tragic cases, a drunk driver’s negligence will cause someone else’s death. If you have lost a loved one because of a drunk driver, you may have a wrongful death claim. In these cases the victim is no longer able to bring their own claims for damages so their survivors, such as a spouse, children, or parents, may be able to sue on their behalf. Wrongful death damages may include medical expenses before death, pain and suffering, punitive damages, funeral and burial expenses, and loss of future income and support. While no amount of money can compensate for the loss of a loved one, holding a drunk driver responsible ensures a victim’s family does not have to bear unjust financial burdens in addition to their grief.
Potential Additional Defendants
Under Texas law passed in 1987, the Dram Shop Act allows owners of the bar, club, or restaurant that served a drunk driver prior to an accident to be sued by a victim. Successfully pursuing damages under this act requires additional evidence. Speak to an experienced personal injury lawyer to learn more.
Get Legal Help
If you were injured or lost a loved one in a drunk driving accident, contact The Law Offices of George Salinas in San Antonio at (210) 225-0909 or online. Schedule a free consultation and learn if we may be able to help you.