Driving under the influence can not only result in a fine or license revocation, but can easily cause serious, catastrophic injuries that can forever affect a family.
Being involved in a DWI or drunk driving accident can be a very scary experience, and even more devastating in that it could have been easily prevented.
The first step to recovering from an accident with a drunk driver is understanding the processes behind proving a DWI case and how liability can shape up over the course of the case.
Here, we’ll look at a few common questions surrounding drunk driving accident claims and compensation.
What is a DWI?
It may be helpful to look first at what at DWI actually is.
DWI is an acronym for “driving while intoxicated.” A driver that is convicted of a DWI has operated a motor vehicle outside the legal intoxication limits, and a driver’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is used to confirm this.
In the state of Texas, it is illegal for anyone under 21 to have any trace of alcohol in his or her system. Commercial drivers may not have more than 0.04% BAC and civilian drivers over 21 may not overreach 0.08% BAC. Doing so means that you are driving negligently, and this can have both legal and life-threatening consequences.
How are drunk driving accidents different from other car accidents?
In many ways, DWI and drunk driving accidents are very similar to typical car accidents. Both involve serious injuries, an attempt to assign liability and negligence, and negotiations with insurance providers to reach a settlement. However, DWI accidents are different in their own way.
Texas’s legal limit is 0.08% BAC as we’ve mentioned. This means that if anyone undergoes a breathalyzer test after an accident and they overreach this level, they are acting in negligence. And acting in negligence is grounds for liability in the case.
Secondly, those injured in drunk driving accidents may be more likely to receive punitive damages in their case. Punitive damages are not designed to compensate for a victim’s injuries, but rather are used to punish the individual at fault and discourage any more law-breaking. Since he or she was so negligently breaking the law at the time of the accident, punitive damages can be more of a possibility.
Are drunk drivers always held liable?
Since driving with a BAC above legal limits immediately places liability, the drunk driver will likely be held at least partially responsible for the accident.
However, there may be instances in which both drivers, whether the other is drunk or not, may be held liable for the accident.
If the injured person was also showing an amount of negligence at the time of the accident, he or she may also be held partially liable, although not likely to the same degree as the drunk driver.
Texas is what is known as a comparative negligence state. This means that more than one party can be held liable (in this instance, both a driver and a drunk driver) for negligence in an accident. The amount of compensation you are owed depends on what percentage of the accident can be proven to be your fault.
However, Texas law states that, if one party is more than 50% responsible, they forfeit their right to any compensation. This is likely the case for most drunk driving accidents.
Yes, bars CAN be held liable.
Bars can also be held liable for drunk driving accidents in certain situations. The law that determines if a bar or other establishment can be held liable is called the Dram Shop Act.
Enjuris Tip: The purpose of the Dram Shop Act is mostly to encourage bar owners to properly train employees in not giving alcohol to someone whose judgement is clearly impaired. Learn more about the Dram Shop Act here.
In order to be labeled negligent and liable in a drunk driving accident, an employee at a bar or other place that serves alcohol must have committed one of two acts:
Selling alcohol to an individual that was drunk enough to present immediate danger to themselves or others
Selling alcohol to a minor who went on to cause a drunk driving accident
There are ways that bars and other establishments may not be held liable even if one of their employees has violated the Dram Shop Act. In order to dodge liability, a bar must:
Require employees to attend training in order to sell alcohol
Prove that the employee in question did attend the training sessions
Prove that the employer did not encourage the employee to ignore the Dram Shop Act
Will hiring a personal injury lawyer actually help my case?
Yes. Gathering the appropriate information that will help your case can be tricky, especially when it comes to breathalyzer tests or other evidence that proves the defendant was drunk at the time of the accident.
Sometimes defendants can be illegally drunk at the time an accident occurred, but by the time a breathalyzer is given, their BAC has reached a legal limit. A personal injury attorney will be able to help with any such problems that may come up.
Enjuris Tip: It is suggested that you contact an attorney for help if you have suffered severe injuries from your accident, if liability is in question, and especially if you’ve lost a loved one due to the accident. Learn more about when you may need an accident attorney.
Also, if a bar or establishment may also be involved, determining the degree of negligence can be complicated at best and may be better left up to a personal injury attorney to deal with.