An accident with a drunk driver can leave you with many questions — and many expenses. A serious injury can result in mounting medical bills and personal costs at a time when you are potentially dealing with permanent or temporary loss of income as well.
While the impact of a serious accident can be life-changing, victims do have several options available to them to help pay for some of the associated costs. Beyond working with a drunk driving accident lawyer to recover for your losses, those harmed by drunk drivers have a potential source of compensation offered to them by the Texas state government through a special fund known as the Crime Victim’s Compensation Program. The money provided by this fund helps drunk driving accident victims defray some of the expenses incurred by their accident, including medical care and other costs. Here’s what you need to know about drunk driving accidents in Texas — and whether or not you may be eligible for the fund.
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Drunk Driving Is a Big Problem in Texas
Texas drivers were charged with 174,160 DWIs in the years 2015 and 2016. According to the CDC, 2.1 percent of Texans admitted they have driven after drinking, compared to the national average of 1.9 percent — although these numbers are likely higher since drivers may not want to admit to operating a vehicle under the influence.
TXDoT data shows that there were 940 fatalities from alcohol-related crashes in Texas in 2018. Of those deaths, nearly a third were innocent victims: pedestrians, cyclists, passengers, and other drivers. Data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reveals that nearly 40 percent of all traffic fatalities in Texas involve alcohol, compared to the national average of 29 percent. That leaves Texas tied with Hawaii for the sixth highest ratio of DWI-related deaths.
Clearly, alcohol-impaired driving is a grave issue in our state.
Drunk Driving Accidents Have Serious Consequences
Drunk driving accidents can cause huge losses. NHTSA estimates that these collisions caused roughly $44 billion in economic losses in 2010, including medical bills, EMS costs, property damage, insurance administration, and lost productivity. From the victim’s perspective, additional economic losses may include lost wages and earning ability, mental health care costs, personal expenses, and — in the event of a fatality — funeral and final costs. And of course, there are intangible losses and damages that can occur as a result of a serious accident: loss of life, loss of companionship, pain and suffering and more.
These damages may be present with any motor vehicle accident; however, since drunk driving is such a serious offense, victims in these cases have a few special considerations to weigh as they decide how to approach their case and their expenses. In Texas, it is illegal to drive with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 percent or more. In most cases, driving while intoxicated is considered a misdemeanor. However, when an individual causes and accident while driving under the influence, the legal consequences may be much more serious. For instance, under Texas Penal Code, Sec. 49.07, if a drunk driver causes an accident that results in “serious bodily injury,” that individual can be charged with a felony. Pending criminal charges can complicate or delay your case — but also provide the grounds for an additional avenue of compensation.
Compensation Options for Texas Drunk Driving Accident Victims
Because drunk driving is considered a very serious crime, the Texas Legislature allows accident victims harmed by drunk drivers to participate in a special compensation program, known as the The Crime Victims’ Compensation (CVC) Program. Originally created in 1979, the CVC was designed to encourage victims of serious crimes to pursue criminal charges by alleviating some of the financial barriers.
That means if you have been harmed by a drunk driver, you may be entitled to reimbursement from the State for various expenses associated with the incident, including:
- Medical care
- Lost earnings
- Loss of financial support (for family members and other dependents)
- Funeral costs
- Child and dependent care
DWI victims must apply for reimbursement by submitting an application to the program online. However, the CVC maintains some fairly stringent eligibility requirements for victims accepted into the program. In order to be considered, the following requirements must be met:
- The crime must have been reported to law enforcement.
- The victim must be a Texas resident and a US citizen.
- The victim cannot have contributed to the crime in any way.
Additionally, the CVC only applies to victims who have no other sources of compensation for their expenses. Generally, the CVC will consider the drunk driver’s car insurance, your own car insurance, and your health insurance when determining your rights to payment under the CVC. This means it is a good idea to understand all of your rights and options before submitting a claim for reimbursement from the CVC or trying to negotiate a settlement with any of the insurance companies involved.
Furthermore, if you are eligible for compensation under the CVC, the most you can expect to be granted is $50,000. In many cases, that amount is not enough to cover your losses, and will not compensate you for many of your intangible damages, such as pain, suffering and physical impairment.
For these and other reasons, the CVC program is not an ideal source of compensation for every drunk driving accident victim. However, for injured parties who have no health or applicable auto insurance, or if the drunk driver is without auto insurance, CVC compensation can help ease some of the expenses associated with your accident.
A drunk driving accident lawyer can help you understand what types of compensation are available to you and your likelihood of receiving reimbursement from the CVC program. They can even assist you with the application process if it seems like the program might be a good fit for you. And of course, they can help you fight for compensation for additional losses — and for lower medical bills and expenses.
For more information on the CVC and pressure-free advice on how to proceed with your drunk driving accident settlement or case, contact FVF today for a no-cost consultation.