Things You Should Know If You Are Hit By A Houston Drunk Driver
It’s scary and stressful to be involved in a traffic accident. You should consider yourself lucky if you are able to walk away with minor property damage and no injuries. However, not everyone is so lucky, especially in cases where the cause of an accident is an irresponsible drunk driver. Here’s a list of some of the things you should expect in case you are involved in a traffic accident caused by a drunk driver.
As per the latest statistics, 10,265 people lost their lives in traffic accidents where alcohol was involved. One-third of all the traffic-related deaths in the country involved alcohol. Cops arrested around 1.1 million drivers for driving under the influence.
Simply put, you need to know your options in case you are in involved in an accident caused by a drunk driver as drinking and driving are so common.
Criminal or Civil
In case the driver responsible for the accident is cited and arrested for drunk driving, the case is likely to have two distinct tracks including criminal and civil. The state will take on the criminal case in case they go ahead with the prosecution of the driver. In such cases, a DUI prosecutor is assigned to the case and they decide whether they want to proceed to trial, work out a plea deal or dismiss the case. The criminal case ensures that the errant driver is punished for his irresponsibility and justice is served.
However, it is important for you to know that you’re not going to get any kind of financial compensation due to injuries caused by the actions of the drunk driver unless restitution as ordered by the judge as part of the criminal sentence. The restitution amount is typically small, even when ordered, and it is up to you to get full compensation by filing a civil case against the drunk driver.
Civil lawsuit allows you to request compensation for various damages such as lost wages, pain, and suffering, property damage as well as medical treatment. Family members are allowed to sue the drunk driver for causing wrongful death in case the accident leads to a fatality. The victim is likely to have a much better chance of prevailing in the civil suit in case the drunk driver is convicted in the criminal suit. This is due to the reason that the burden of proof is higher in a criminal case as the prosecution needs to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the motor vehicle was being operated by the driver while intoxicated. On the other hand, in a civil suit, it needs to be shown that the driver was drunk by presenting a whole lot of evidence which is essentially to show that the driver was more likely to be drunk than not.
This bifurcation of cases may also lead to delay. Under the Fifth Amendment, a driver accused of DUI cannot be compelled by the prosecution to testify in a case that might result in his or her self-incrimination (civil lawsuit). This is the reason most defendants do not testify at a civil hearing as it might affect their criminal suit. On the other hand, it’s not easy to wait for the criminal lawsuit to get over as civil lawsuits come with a statute of limitations and the evidence keeps diminishing with time. Therefore, the state’s prosecution timeline should not be allowed to hold the civil suit hostage.
This is the reason, it is recommended to have a smart personal injury lawyer by your side in order to have a successful lawsuit without any unnecessary delay. The lawyer need to communicate with the insurance company of the DUI driver, family members, doctors treating the client, law enforcement, various other friends and witnesses in order to build a solid case. The goal of the lawyer should be to prove that the accused driver was drunk and cause of the accident without the need to call the defendant to give their own testimony as proof.
Accidents caused by drunk drivers typically also involve some other people in addition to the driver and the victim. In case the driver is properly insured, the driver along with their insurance company will be sued. In case the driver has no insurance, other avenues need to be explored in order to get full compensation.
For instance, there are laws in some states that allow the victim to get compensation from the bar or restaurant that continued to serve the alcohol to the driver when they should have cut him or her off. It’s commonly known as the ‘dram shop’ law but you need to check with an experienced DUI attorney to find out whether it’s applicable in your jurisdiction. Some states also have laws that allow victims to bring claims against private individuals who provided alcohol to an already intoxicated guest or to an underage individual.
In some rare cases, car manufacturers have also been found to be partially at fault as the car was not deemed crash-worthy. The car manufacturer might also be held liable in case the safety features of a car didn’t work as expected even though the initial cause of the accident happened to be the drunk driver.
In some cases, dangerous conditions on road might also be the reason to have contributed to the accident. If the roads are found to be poorly lit, dark or with inadequate signage before a construction site, that might have caused the accident even when the driver has been proven to be under the influence.
In some cases, your insurance company might also be involved in case the drunk driver carries inadequate insurance or no insurance. In case your insurance covers you for uninsured motorists, you might be able to file a claim against your own insurance company in order to get compensation for any excess not provided by the DUI driver. You should know that this insurance protection needs to be in place before the accident.
Overall, there are a number of potentially liable parties in an accident involving alcohol. Therefore, it is better to hire the services of an experienced accident or personal injury attorney to represent you as quickly as possible after the accident.
In most cases, the driver is likely to be held responsible for paying compensatory damages to the victim to ensure that the victim gets reimbursed for medical expenses, property damage as well as lost wages. The DUI drivers are also liable for other less tangible expenses such as disfigurement or pain and suffering. In some cases, the court might instruct the driver to pay punitive damages. Punitive damages are designed to serve as a detriment to the DUI driver as well as others to demonstrate that this kind of behavior is not going to be tolerated by society.