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Driving under the influence usually involves drugs or alcohol, or a combination of the two. However, drunk driving (alcohol impairment) is more common. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, drunk driving accidents kill 29 people daily in the United States. This is one death every 50 minutes and more than $44 billion in total annual costs. 

A person drives under the influence of alcohol when their blood alcohol concentration is at or above 0.08%. At this point, drunk drivers have little control over their actions. Their cognitive ability is greatly impaired, and they might even engage in distracted driving. 

These lead to motor vehicle accidents that cause severe bodily injury and financial losses. Thankfully, there are legal options available to accident victims. As a result, they can hold intoxicated drivers responsible for their actions. 

This article discusses the legal action drunk driving victims can take against the responsible party. If you or a loved one is a victim of a drunk driving car accident, a Houston drunk driving accident lawyer at Calhoun, Meredith, and Sims can help you get financial compensation.

The first thing to note is that Texas is an at-fault car accident state. It means that the fault party pays damages to the victim. The money covers a wide range of injuries and losses. Due to the high impact nature of most alcohol-induced motor vehicle collisions, victims sometimes suffer catastrophic injuries like:

Aside from accident injuries, victims also sustain property damage. So, when this happens, the law gives you two options. We discuss them below.

Insurance Claim

Generally, you can file a claim for accident injuries against the negligent driver's insurance provider. It is known as a third-party claim. Here, you ask for economic and non-economic damages.

They cover:

  • Medical expenses 
  • Property damage
  • Lost wages 
  • Pain and suffering 
  • Emotional distress/mental anguish
  • Loss of consortium 
  • Loss of companionship
  • Cost of medical equipment if there's a physical impairment
  • Funeral and burial expenses (if the injured person died)

After filing the claim, the insurance adjuster commences an investigation to ascertain the accident facts. If they find their policyholder was at fault, they pay compensation. They could offer a fair settlement or make a low-ball offer. 

The choice is yours to take or leave the settlement offer in either case. Where the money doesn't cover your medical bills and other losses, your drunk driving accident lawyer will advise you to reject it. If this happens, the next option is to file a personal injury lawsuit. 

Personal Injury Lawsuit

A drunk driving lawsuit does not only arise where the insurance carrier doesn't offer fair compensation. Fault drivers face civil action because of one or more of the following:

  • Settlement negotiations fall through, and the insurance company denies the victim compensation
  • The victim suffered catastrophic injuries or died (in the event of a death, the decedent's legal beneficiaries will file a wrongful death lawsuit) 
  • The insurance company delays settlements, and the Statute of Limitations is about to expire
  • The injured party's lawyer wants to ask for punitive damages 

If you win the accident lawsuit, you'll get economic and non-economic damages and punitive damages. The latter is only available in a suit and serves as a deterrent to the careless driver and others. Note that your drunk driving accident attorney must request punitive damages for the court to consider it. 

Finally, the presence of an ongoing criminal case against the party accountable does not stop you from commencing the civil action. Both actions are different and follow different rules of court and procedure. 

What Happens if the Negligent Party Lacks Insurance? 

Even if Texas law mandates drivers to carry auto liability insurance coverage, some drivers do not. Unfortunately, this is often the case with drunk drivers and a common reason for hit-and-run accidents. In such an instance, you'll rely on your personal injury protection policy (PIP) or uninsured motorist coverage (UIM). 

While PIP is mandatory in Texas, UIM is not. But it is best to have one of the two to keep you from paying out-of-pocket for medical treatment. However, you can file a lawsuit against the driver accountable and recover maximum compensation if you don't have insurance. 

Dram Shop Liability in Texas 

Another legal option available to you after getting hit by a drunk driver is filing a dram shop liability lawsuit. It is a civil claim against the bar, restaurant, liquor store, or other business that sold alcohol to the negligent driver.

Under the law, a business may be found liable for the injuries or wrongful death caused by an impaired driver if it:

An experienced lawyer knows when a business is liable to pay financial compensation to drunk driving victims. So, consult one before starting the accident claim process. 

Schedule a Free Initial Consultation With Calhoun, Meredith, and Sims

Filing a personal injury claim requires the legal knowledge and experience of a personal injury attorney in Houston, TX. Our legal team possesses both qualities and will hold the drunk driver accountable for their actions. Contact us today to learn how our law firm can help you.

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