Beaumont Personal Injury Attorney for Accident Victims of Drunk Driving Accidents
Despite tough laws against drunk driving, massive public awareness campaigns about the dangers of drinking and driving, and the social stigma attached to driving drunk, alcohol continues to play a factor in one-third of all car accident deaths in the U.S. year after year. Drunk drivers may have their driver’s license taken away after a Texas DUI or DWI, but this does little for the innocent victim who was injured or killed by the drunk driver’s bad choice to drink and drive. Beaumont personal injury lawyer Gilbert Adams pursues justice for victims of drunk driving accidents through the civil justice system by holding drunk drivers accountable to their victims and obtaining a full amount of compensation to help victims deal with their injuries, lost income, physical and emotional pain, and other damages arising from the accident.
One in three fatal Texas car accidents involve drunk drivers
Nationwide, one-third of all car accident fatalities involve alcohol. These numbers are comparable in Texas as well. In 2017, there were 3,342 fatal car crashes in Texas, including among them 910 fatal DUI crashes. Similarly, in Harris County alone, 142 of the 430 fatal crashes in 2017 involved DUI/DWI. In Jefferson County that year, alcohol was responsible for about one in five car accident deaths.
Drunk driving causes severe crashes
Just about every skill needed for safe driving is negatively impacted by drinking alcohol. Alcohol impairs judgment, dulls attention and reflexes, slows reaction time, blurs vision and decreases motor function. Drunk driving behaviors which most commonly lead to car accidents include:
- Weaving or drifting out of the lane
- Blowing through stops signs or red lights
- Stopping too far in front of an intersection, or extending into the intersection
- Driving too fast or too slowly
- Making a sudden unsafe turn or lane change without checking traffic
- Falling asleep at the wheel
Not only are drunk drivers more likely to cause an accident; the accidents they cause are more likely to involve catastrophic injury or wrongful death. A drunk driver may not apply the brakes in the seconds before impact or take any action to try and avoid the accident. This results in much more forceful impacts in a collision with a drunk driver. When drunk drivers do notice their erratic driving, they may overreact, such as overcorrecting for drifting out of their lane by yanking the wheel in the opposite direction. This can lead to loss of control of the vehicle causing a head-on collision, rollover or other serious lane departure accident.
Drunk driving car accident claims are handled differently
There are special characteristics of car accident cases dealing with drunk drivers that are not typically present in other types of car accidents. One difference is the legal concept of negligence per se. Typically, the injured victim is required to prove that the other driver was negligent in causing the accident. But when a person violates a criminal statute the injures a person the statute was intended to protect, and the injury is the type of harm the statute was designed to prevent, the actor can be considered negligent per se, and the injured victim does not have to prove negligence independently. This doctrine may apply in the case of a person found guilty of DUI or DWI under Texas law who was involved in an accident.
Different standards apply to criminal cases than civil cases, and even if the driver was not charged or convicted of drunk driving, other evidence may still exist which shows the person was drinking and at-fault in causing the accident.
Another aspect of drunk driving car accident cases that should be considered is the issue of exemplary damages in Texas. These damages are awarded as a penalty or by way of punishment to the responsible party. The amount of exemplary damages which may be awarded depends on how bad the conduct was, the net worth of the defendant, and other factors. In Texas, exemplary damages can reach up to twice the amount of economic damages plus noneconomic damages up to $750,000, or at least up to $200,000 if other damages do not reach that amount.
The facts supporting an exemplary damages award must be proven by clear and convincing evidence in Texas, which is a higher standard than applies to other aspects of a personal injury case. Although exemplary damages are harder to obtain and require more work, attorney Gilbert Adams devotes his firm’s talents and resources to recovering exemplary damages in appropriate cases to hold the drunk driver accountable, set an example for society, and get the maximum amount in compensation available for the benefit of the injury victim.
Get the Help You Need after a Texas Drunk Driving Car Accident
If you or a loved one has been hurt in a car accident caused by a drunk driver in Texas, contact the Gilbert Adams Law Offices in Beaumont at 409-835-3000 for a free consultation with an experienced and successful Texas car accident attorney.