A driver under the influence of alcohol — or any type of illegal substance — can wreak serious havoc on the road. Substances impair judgment and slow reaction time, vastly raising the likelihood that the driver will cause an accident. It is not uncommon to see catastrophic damages in these types of accidents: property damage, serious injury, and loss of life are all possible results.
Unfortunately, these incidents occur all too frequently. According to the CDC, alcohol-impaired drivers are responsible for approximately 28 percent of all car crashes, while those under the influence of illegal drugs cause another 16 percent. Each year, over ten thousand people are killed by drunk drivers and over one million people are arrested for drunk driving. Essentially, this is a problem of epidemic proportions.
All drivers have the responsibility to obey the rules of the road and ensure the safety of those around them. When a driver neglects this duty, there can be serious consequences for drivers and passengers in nearby vehicles and their own, and legal and financial repercussions for the driver. Drunk driving is a criminal offense, and it is punishable with jail time, fines, and other punitive measures.
An experienced DUI accident attorney can ensure not only that drunk drivers are taken to task in criminal cases, but also that they pay for the damage they caused. Our expert legal team at FVF will help you assert your rights, putting every possible resource at your disposal to help you recover medical, emotional, and financial damages.
There are two elements to a drunk driving accident case: the criminal suit and the civil suit. Here’s how the process works for each.
In the state of Texas, driving with a blood alcohol content (BAC) above 0.08 is illegal under Chapter 49 of the Texas State Penal Code. If an individual causes an accident while above that legal limit, it can result in a felony charge if the victim(s) is killed or seriously injured as a result.
Any accident involving drunk driving will therefore be subject to a criminal investigation. When police arrive at the scene of an accident, they should administer field sobriety tests and/or a breathalyzer to determine whether an individual was driving under the influence. If an officer decides that there is probable cause, they may arrest the individual in question.
Once an arrest is made, the criminal portion of a drunk driving accident case begins. The suspect will be brought into police custody, where they will remain unless they are able to make a bail payment. Next, the individual in question will be arraigned — in other words, read the charges they face and asked to submit a plea of “guilty,” “not guilty,” or “no contest.”
At this point, some defendants try to arrange a plea bargain agreement, that is, an agreement to plead guilty or no contest in exchange for a lesser sentence. However, if the defendant is facing felony charges — as they likely will if a serious injury or death occurred — that individual may not have the option of plea bargaining. Instead, the case will be brought to court for a preliminary hearing, where a judge will decide if there is enough evidence to warrant a criminal trial.
Driving under the influence is considered a felony change if:
Felony charges can result in serious consequences. Individuals found guilty of felony DUI charges may be subject to the following punitive measures:
As a plaintiff in a criminal DUI accident case, you are entitled to certain rights as your case progresses. A drunk driving accident lawyer can help you ensure that you receive the information and compensation you deserve, such as the following.
The Texas Crime Victims’ Compensation Program
In Texas, victims injured or killed by drunk drivers have the right to receive compensation for their financial losses through the Texas Crime Victims’ Compensation Program. This program is designed to encourage victims to participate in the process of apprehending and prosecuting criminals. In exchange, the program will help you cover the following costs.
Your Right to Be Informed
You are entitled to be informed of the progress of a criminal case for a drunk driving accident. An experienced drunk driving accident lawyer can help you obtain and leverage information pertinent to your case, such as the results of field sobriety tests, police body camera footage, audio recordings, and police records like arrest history, warrants, and so forth.
We recommend that most clients injured in a drunk driving accident also file a separate civil lawsuit or, at a minimum, an insurance claim. When you file a civil lawsuit or assert an insurance claim, you don’t have to rely on the criminal justice system to help you secure a monetary recovery and are more likely to receive full compensation for your losses. The civil suit will allow you to recover damages for medical bills, lost income and future earnings, emotional trauma, and other expenses associated with your injury. In addition, you can seek punitive damages, which is a civil penalty designed to punish the drunk driver with the payment of money. More specifically, we can help you with the following.
Dram Shop Claims for Civil Cases
The state of Texas has a legal statute called the Dram Shop Act, which holds alcoholic beverage providers liable for over-serving patrons. If your DUI accident attorney is able to find evidence that an individual was over-served at a particular establishment, he or she may recommend that you bring a cause of action against the proprietor in your civil lawsuit. If proven guilty, that establishment may be liable for a portion of the damages you incurred because of the drunk driving accident. Attorneys can help you identify the driver’s actions before they caused your accident, locating irresponsible businesses that may be partially liable for these incidents.
There are many moving parts involved in a drunk driving accident case. You will need to identify all parties involved and determine their level of responsibility, as well as capture evidence to prove liability. You’ll need to work with police, criminal courts, and insurance providers — all of which can be difficult to do on your own.
A knowledgeable personal injury attorney can help you with all of these tasks, providing expertise and support as you navigate the thorny path of a DUI injury case. If you need help with a drunk driving accident case — or just want your questions answered — contact us today for a free consultation. Here at FVF, we take a hard line on drunk driving, helping victims recover the damages they are owed and, ultimately, reclaim their lives.
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