Drunk driving is a problem across the country—and especially in Texas. The Texas Department of Transportation estimates that someone is injured or killed in the Lone Star State every 20 minutes due to drunk driving.
As with most car accidents, if you are injured in a crash with a drunk driver, you can hold that driver responsible for compensating you for the expenses associated with your injuries, including medical bills, lost income, pain and suffering, and more. Injuries in a DWI wreck might be more serious since drunk drivers are frequently responsible for violent crashes, but there are other differences between DWI crashes and regular car crashes as well.
DWI Criminal and Civil Cases
Most car accident cases are civil cases. However, in addition to facing civil liability to compensate you for your injuries, the drunk driver who caused your crash will likely be facing criminal charges as well. The outcome of your personal injury case is independent of the outcome of the criminal case, although some of the evidence may overlap. For instance, you may need to obtain evidence from the criminal investigation, such as the driver’s blood test results, to help prove negligence.
You will have to pursue civil charges against the drunk driver separate from the criminal case. In a criminal case, the drunk driver may receive a fine, jail time, and other consequences, but compensating you for your injuries and property damage are not part of the process.
Even if the drunk driver is not convicted of a crime, you might still be able to recover compensation in a civil case. In a civil case, a “preponderance of evidence” is enough to gain a judgment in your favor. This is a much lower burden of proof to meet.
Dram Shop Laws and DWI Wrecks
In addition to the driver who got behind the wheel while intoxicated, others could share in the liability for the crash. Your attorney might investigate the possibility of dram shop liability, which could place some of the liability with the commercial seller of alcohol where the at-fault driver drank.
If the drunk driver is a teen who was drinking at someone's home, the host who served the alcohol could also be held responsible. Hosts over the age of 21 who provided alcohol to a minor under the age of 18 could be held liable if they are not the parent, guardian, or spouse of the minor. There must also be proof that the adult knowingly provided the minor an alcoholic beverage or allowed the minor to drink on their property.
Potential Damages After a DWI Wreck
As an accident victim, you have the right to pursue compensation for all economic and non-economic damages related to the crash. Some of the potential damages might include:
- Costs for medical treatment, including past and future expenses
- Lost income
- Emotional distress
- Pain and suffering
If you are permanently disabled because of the crash, you might also be awarded damages for diminished earning capacity and diminished quality of life.
The drunk driver may also have to pay punitive damages. Also called exemplary damages, these are meant to penalize the drunk driver for their behavior and serve as a warning to others.
In Texas, punitive damages may not exceed $200,000 or twice the amount of economic damages plus an equal amount of non-economic damages up to $750,000. These damage caps can be waived under some circumstances, such as if the drunk driver caused great bodily harm to the victim.
DWI Cases Can Be Complex
You need an attorney to navigate the complexities of a DWI case and to help ensure you get the compensation you deserve so you can rebuild your life. Contact The Button Law Firm to make sure your rights are protected. Make an appointment today for a free consultation so we can go over the details of your case.