In short, the answer is “yes.” If you have been hit by a drunk driver it is because the other driver drove while under the influence (DUI) and broke the law. The driver’s negligence caused your injuries and damages. Criminal charges can add another layer of strength to your case.
However, it doesn’t mean your or the offending driver’s insurance company will necessarily fully compensate you. You may need to have a personal injury attorney with experience in DUI type situations bring a suit on your behalf.
As with any accident, you should always contact the police immediately. In this scenario, the officer can determine if you were hit by a drunk driver. He will likely test on scene or a blood test will be taken at the hospital if the driver was taken there for injuries. If the driver was impaired, police will charge them accordingly. That arrest and police report will provide good evidence your attorney can use. If you can, gather as much evidence as you can before you leave the accident scene including witnesses contact information.
Civil vs. Criminal
A person driving a vehicle while inebriated can be charged under Texas Penal Code Section 49.04 and Texas Penal Code Section 49.01(2). Generally, they are arrested if the officer suspects alcohol or drug use, or the blood alcohol content (BAC) is more than .08, meaning over the legal limit.
There are two separate parts to a drunk driving accident:
• The criminal side, which sees the drunk driver arrested and charged with DUI
• The civil side, in which an accident victim files a claim and possibly files a lawsuit against the other driver and/or their insurance company.
The drunk driver who hit you and caused the accident must deal with both the criminal charges and your insurance claim or lawsuit.
Because Texas is a modified comparative fault state, you may be able to request and receive a higher settlement because the other driver was breaking the law when he/she was driving intoxicated.
Dram Shop Laws
Texas is one of the states with “dram shop laws,” which are laws that allow injured parties to bring a claim against anyone who sold alcohol to the individual causing the accident. The Texas Dram Shop Act means that bars, restaurants, and businesses which serve alcohol who knew the driver was already intoxicated but served them anyway are partly responsible because their action contributed to the cause of the accident.
A dram shop lawsuit is a third-party civil action and is separate from a lawsuit filed against a drunk driver. You may be able to collect additional damages in this separate lawsuit because the “dram shop’s” actions led to the accident.
Why You Need A Good Personal Injury Attorney
Car accidents are stressful enough even when the at-fault driver is sober. If you’ve been hit by a drunk driver, the criminal aspect of it adds an additional level of stress and complexity to your case.
An experienced personal injury attorney will gather evidence, such as police reports, video surveillance, vehicle history reports, pictures, and other vital proof to assemble your case for a claim with the insurance company.
Most insurance companies do not want to go to court if their client has been charged with drunk driving. Most settle because the insurer knows they stand a strong chance of losing. Even under these circumstances, an insurance company will still try to convince you to accept the lowest settlement they can. They may even will work to discredit your claim even in the face of evidence against their client. Your attorney should fight to get you compensation to cover medical costs, money for long term rehabilitation or physical therapy, pain and suffering and any other related damages.
Also if you go to court, remember a drunk driver may be defended in court by an expert attorney who understands not only personal injury but criminal defense and will attempt to discredit your claim. Having a top personal injury attorney representing you and your interests will give you a good chance of winning a sufficient award to meet your needs.
Since the car accident was caused by the other driver’s negligence, you can request specific damages to compensate you for the losses, such as:
• Medical expenses
• Lost wages
• Property damage
• Lost future earning capacity
• Pain and suffering from both physical and emotional distress
Punitive damages are also a possibility since these are awarded to punish the negligent party for their actions.
Find a Qualified Texas Personal Injury Lawyer
If you’ve been hit by a drunk driver, you very likely have a stronger case. An experienced attorney who has represented clients injured by drunk drivers, like the attorneys of Paxton Law, should help you through the process and fight for you to get a settlement or award that covers all your current expenses and provides for future financial needs. Texas law allows only two years to file your claim from the date of the accident, so speak with an attorney as soon as possible after your accident.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a drunk driving accident, you could be entitled to generous compensation. Contact Paxton Law Firm today by calling (281) 978-2244 or filling out our online contact form. During your free consultation, you can learn more about your legal options.