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What You Need to Know About Victims' Rights After Drunk Driving Accidents

Driving while intoxicated (DWI) is a criminal offense in Texas. It is also a clear failure of a driver’s legal obligation to take reasonable precautions in order to safely operate their vehicles. Because drunk driving, as well as drugged driving, is such an explicit act of negligence that any driver knows will place others at risk, victims harmed by intoxicated or impaired motorists are provided legal pathways through which they can secure justice and financial compensation for their damages.

Texas, like every other state in the nation, prohibits drivers from getting behind the wheel when their blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is .08 or greater. Unfortunately, laws don’t always prevent individuals from acting negligently, which is why Texas sees thousands of preventable injuries and deaths caused by alcohol-related car accidents every year. At Tom Rhodes Law Firm P.C., we have seen the life-altering repercussions of drunk driving, and have represented many victims who were seriously injured by motorists who failed to take their legal responsibility of safety seriously. Over the years, we have helped DWI victims protect their rights when pursuing personal injury lawsuits, as well as families who filed wrongful death claims after they lost loved ones in drunk driving wrecks.

If you or someone you love has recently been harmed by an impaired driver, here are few important things you should know:

  • Criminal and civil cases are separate matters – While drunk drivers can and nearly always do face criminal charges for driving intoxicated and causing accidents that injure others, it is important to understand that these criminal cases are conducted separately from any personal injury or wrongful death claim brought by victims. Because criminal cases concern only whether an individual is guilty of a crime, they are not a viable source of compensation. To recover damages, including medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering, victims need to pursue claims in the civil justice system, where they use a different burden of proof (a preponderance of the evidence) to show that a driver’s negligence more likely than not caused them harm.
  • Intoxication is negligence – Injury lawsuits focus on proving negligence, and illustrating this point in drunk driving accident cases is crucial. Because all drivers have a duty of care to safely operate their vehicle, proving negligence means proving intoxication. That’s because any reasonable person knows drunk driving is against the law and dangerous, and that getting behind the wheel impaired puts the lives of others at risk. Proof in these cases often comes through evidence obtained by law enforcement, including breath or blood tests showing alcohol intoxication. It is also strengthened by evidence showing a driver’s failure to safely operate their vehicle, such as swerving, speeding, or disobeying traffic signals.
  • Serious injuries make for high stakes – Drunk driving accidents have the potential to cause devastating injuries, including catastrophic injuries that forever change the lives of victims. When you or someone you love experiences a serious injury, the stakes in your case is elevated. This is often due to greater medical needs and, in some cases, expenses associated with future care of injuries and disabilities. When serious injuries occur, full and fair compensation is vital to helping victims rebuild their lives and navigate their futures.
  • Damages recoverable by DWI victims – Victims of DWI accidents have the right to seek financial compensation for the damages they incurred as a result of their injuries. These may include economic damages such as medical costs (both past and future), lost wages from missing work, diminished earning potential, therapy, and more. Victims can also recover damages for their non-economic losses, including their pain and suffering, mental anguish, and other emotional injuries. In some cases where negligence is egregious or excessive, courts may choose to award punitive or exemplary damages, which further punish wrongdoers and set examples that such conduct should never be tolerated.
  • Fair compensation is not guaranteed – Although victims have rights to pursue lawsuits and recover their damages, compensation is never guaranteed. This is because insurance companies want to protect their bottom lines, and pay victims as little as they can. They may also engage in scrupulous tactics to get victims to say something that can be used against them, or to have them settle for less than they deserve. For these reasons, it becomes important for victims to work with proven lawyers who can fight for the compensation they deserve.

Discuss your drunk driving accident case personally with a member of Tom Rhodes Law Firm P.C. Contact us for a FREE consultation.