DUI Accidents Present Special Challenges for Injury Victims
August 2nd, 2017
News coverage regarding the fatal accident involving Texas City Commissioner Dee Ann Haney earlier this month has turned the spotlight—temporarily—on the dangers of driving under the influence. Haney admitted to smoking marijuana before the accident, in which two men who were standing next to their vehicle were killed. Unfortunately, serious injury and death at the hands of drunk or drugged drivers is far more common than most Texans realize, and warrants consistent attention.
Texas Drunk Driving Accident Statistics
People die in Texas traffic accidents every day, and more than ¼ of those fatalities involve drivers who were under the influence. In 2016, 987 people were killed in DUI-related accidents on Texas roads. It’s no surprise that DUI-involved accidents account for such a high percentage of traffic-related deaths: crashes involving a drunk driver are more than four times as likely to result in fatalities.
In addition, thousands of other drivers, passengers, pedestrians, and bicyclists were seriously injured by drivers under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Liability in Drunk Driving Accidents
Driving under the influence is against the law and the dangers are well known. So, it may seem that recovering damages for injury or wrongful death caused by a drunk driver would be simple and straightforward. There’s generally little question that the driver was negligent, or that his or her negligence fully or partially caused the accident. However, it may be difficult or impossible to recover damages from a drunk driver.
Automobile Insurance in DUI Accidents
People who make the ill-advised decision to drive drunk are often irresponsible in other areas of their lives as well—areas like maintaining car insurance. One report from the Association for the Advancement of Automotive Medicine revealed that more than ¼ of drivers who were involved in accidents with BACs of .15% or greater didn’t even have valid driver’s licenses.
Even when the inebriated driver is insured, the coverage may be insufficient to compensate the injured parties. When there isn’t enough insurance to cover a judgment, the driver is personally responsible for the remainder. But, most drivers don’t have sufficient personal assets to cover damages for a long-term impairment or death. And, drunk drivers are even less likely to have significant assets available to satisfy a judgment.
This lack of adequate insurance coverage and the likelihood that the driver does not have significant assets means that a judgment against the driver alone may be little more than a symbolic victory. Adequately providing for the injured person’s needs or compensating a family for the death of a loved one often requires an extensive investigation to discover other responsible parties.
Additional Responsible Parties in Drunk Driving Injury Cases
A personal injury lawyer with experience in handling drunk driving accident cases can often identify additional responsible parties who may be liable for some or all of the damages incurred in a DUI-related crash.
Some examples include:
• An establishment that over-served the driver prior to the accident. A bar or other establishment that continues to serve alcohol to a patron who is obviously intoxicated and likely to present a danger to himself or others can be held liable for resulting damages. If the employees are all TABC certified, then over-serving alcohol must be done by a manager or encouraged by a manager for bar liability to attach.
• A third-party owner of the vehicle. A person or company that negligently entrusts a vehicle to another person may be responsible for resulting injury. For example, a friend or employer who allows an unlicensed (and therefore uninsured) or incompetent driver to operate his vehicle can be held liable for damages.
Get Help from an Experienced Drunk Driving Accident Lawyer
Identifying responsible parties in the wake of a drunk driving accident can be complicated, and may even require the assistance of an investigator or the investment of other resources. Determining how to proceed is difficult for most people who are inexperienced with the legal system, and is all the more daunting if you have recently suffered a serious injury or are dealing with the loss of a loved one. This is precisely why you should enlist an attorney who handles dram shop and auto accident cases to help.
Paul Cannon has practiced personal injury trial law since 1995. He is Board Certified in Personal Injury Trial Law (2005). He has earned recognition as a Super Lawyer by Thompson Reuters in 2017 & 2018, and as a Top 100 Trial Lawyer by the National Trial Lawyers Association in 2017. He is a Shareholder, trial lawyer and online marketing manager at Simmons and Fletcher, P.C. His legal writings have been published by the Texas Bar Journal, Business.com, Lawyer.com HG Legal Resources, Lawfirms.com, and others. He has been asked to give education talks and media interviews on dog bite law.