According to the Texas Department of Transportation, roughly a third of all fatal car accidents in Texas in 2013 involved drivers who were under the influence or alcohol or drugs at the time of the accident.
MADD reports similar figures for prior years and its figures show that Texas far and away has the most drunk driving-related deaths out of any state in the nation. Many more accidents result in serious injuries that can lead to mounting medical bills, expensive car repairs, missed time from work and other losses.
If you have been injured by a drunk driver, or if you have lost a loved one in a drunk driving accident, it is important to know that these cases are somewhat unique when it comes to recovering financial compensation.
Insurance Issues in Drunk Driving Accidents
When a drunk driver causes a collision, their insurance company may try to deny coverage for the accident. The insurance company may argue that your losses are the result of intentional misconduct and therefore are excluded from the coverage of the drunk driver’s policy.
If the drunk driver’s insurance company tries to deny coverage, you still have a few options for seeking compensation. For example:
• Your lawyer may be able to argue that, although the driver meant to drink, he or she did not mean to cause an accident. If the driver was negligent in causing the collision, his or her insurance should still be on the hook.
• You can also sue the drunk driver directly. If the drunk driver has sufficient assets to cover your losses, this may be a viable solution.
• Your own Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage will provide some relief for your expenses. In Texas, all insurance policies have PIP coverage unless it is specifically waived.
Claims for Punitive Damages
In cases involving serious injuries or death, the drunk driver can also be held liable for punitive damages. While damages in most personal injury and wrongful death cases are compensatory – meaning that they are intended to compensate you for your losses – punitive damages go above and beyond your losses and are intended to send a message to the drunk driver.
Texas law caps the amount of punitive damages that victims and their families can recover. However, in drunk driving cases these can still be a significant portion of your overall award.
Dram Shop and Social Host Liability Laws
Finally, regardless of whether you are able to recover through insurance or from the drunk driver directly, you may also have a claim against the person or establishment who served alcohol to the drunk driver. Texas’s Dram Shop Act allows victims of drunk driving accidents to recover compensation from bars, restaurants, liquor stores, and other establishments that:
• Serve alcohol to individuals who are visibly intoxicated and present a danger to themselves or others; and
• Serve alcohol to minors.
Social hosts can also be held liable if they continue to serve someone who is visibly and dangerously intoxicated or knowingly serve alcohol to a minor who subsequently causes a collision.
Speak with a Houston Car Accident Lawyer About Your Case
If you have been injured or lost a loved one at the hands of a drunk driver, it is important that you seek experienced legal representation. At Morrow & Sheppard LLP, we are intimately familiar with the laws involved in seeking compensation for drunk driving accidents. We can help ensure that you receive justice for your losses.
To speak with one of our attorneys about your case, please contact us today.