Hit by a drunk driver? You aren’t alone. According to the CDC, 10,322 people were killed by drunk drivers in 2012, accounting for nearly one-third of all auto accidents in the US. In Texas, drunk drivers are no less rampant; the Texas Department of Transportation estimates that someone is hurt or killed in Texas by a drunk driver every 20 minutes.
But you aren’t just a statistic. You’re a victim looking for answers, and I hope to help you find them.
In Texas, Car Accident Victims Have Rights
Whether or not drinking was involved, all drivers in Texas have a right to compensation if they were in a wreck that wasn’t their fault. So for instance, if you were driving down the road and someone else rear-ended you, they caused the wreck and they will be responsible for paying for your damages, injuries, medical bills, lost wages (from missing work due to the accident), pain and suffering.
Again, these are the rights of all accident victims, whether or not the other driver was intoxicated.
In order to recover the money you deserve, you’ll need to file a claim against the at-fault driver’s insurance. During the claims process, you’ll be asked to prove (with evidence) that the other driver caused your accident. If you were hit by a drunk driver, you’ll need to show (through arrest records, police reports, etc.) that the driver who hit you was intoxicated and therefore caused your accident.
There Doesn’t Need to Be An Arrest For You To Make a Claim
Driving while intoxicated is a crime. However, if you’ve been involved in an accident with a drunk driver, they don’t need to be arrested for you to make a case against them.
You can file a successful personal injury or wrongful death claim against a drunk driver who wasn’t “caught” because the requirements for proving negligence are much more lenient in civil cases than criminal cases.
How Civil Law Differs from Criminal Law in a Drunk Driving Accident Case
It’s illegal to drive while under the influence of alcohol in Texas. However, criminal law exists only to punish the wrongdoer. It does nothing to compensate the victim. This is where the civil justice system comes in; you can sue the negligent driver to recover damages related to your medical expenses, lost wages, etc.
If you were hurt in a drunk driving accident with a drunk driver, you must file a claim against their insurance. It’s the ONLY way accident victims are able to recover money to pay for things like their medical bills and car damage – the justice system is not set up to help accident victims unless they make a claim.
(Not sure where to start? Read my article on making a claim against another driver in Texas).
DUI Charges in a Drunk Driving Accident
A drunk driver who is charged with driving under the influence (DUI) may receive a jail or prison sentence, a period of probation, fines, or a combination of these. Even more, if you were injured in a DUI accident and a police report and investigation show that the at-fault driver was intoxicated, this could advance a claim because the amount of time that is usually spent on finding whether the person responsible for the accident was actually at-fault would be saved.
Both the courts in Texas and juries know the degree of severity that a drunk driving accident can bring to the victim, which is why having a police report of the accident as part of the case’s evidence would be very advantageous to a personal injury case.
Claiming Compensation After an Alcohol-Related Crash
Anyone can become a victim in an alcohol-related wreck: occupants of other vehicles, pedestrians, bicyclists, even the passengers of the drunk driver. No matter which category you fall into, you have a right to make a claim against the intoxicated motorist’s insurance company.
Under Texas law, victims of drunk driving wrecks have a right to recover damages from the at-fault driver’s insurance policy. If you have been hurt by a drunk driver, you have the right to recover compensation for:
- Physical pain
- Mental anguish
- Physical Impairment
- Medical expenses
- Loss of earning capacity
- Loss of consortium
- Loss of services
As I mentioned above, the right to make a claim extends to passengers riding in the car of the drunk driver. It’s even possible for spouses to make claims against each other. These kinds of claims aren’t meant to be malicious; instead, their meant to protect the couple’s finances by using insurance to pay for damages. Otherwise, the money for car repairs and medical bills would come out of pocket.
What Happens Next?
If you’ve been hurt by a drunk driver, you’re undoubtedly going through a tough time. Many drunk driving victims choose to hire a lawyer to handle their case for them and to ensure they’re awarded the money they deserve.