What Are My Rights When I’m Hurt by a Drunk Driver in Houston?
There is one type of car accident that has been on the rise in Houston: drunk driving accidents. When a driver operates a vehicle while intoxicated, they are increasing the danger to themselves, others in their vehicle, and everyone else around them. The decision to drink and drive can cause a driver to make mistakes that they would not make if they were sober.
If you are injured in a drunk driving accident, you need to know your rights. The Houston drunk driving accident attorneys at The Kishinevsky Law Firm can help you understand and exercise those rights.
Can I hold a drunk driver liable for my injuries?
You may be concerned about a few factors of the drunk driving accident that caused your injuries. Maybe the driver whom you want to file a lawsuit against was not prosecuted for a DUI charge relating to the accident or ended up agreeing to a plea bargain in the criminal case against them.
The good news is that you still have the right to pursue compensation in a civil case under these circumstances. Even if the driver who caused your accident has not admitted to driving under the influence, the at-fault party can still be held liable in civil court for your injuries. While certain types of damages from a drunk driving accident may not be covered by an auto insurance policy, drunk drivers who have valid auto liability insurance are generally covered for their negligence under their auto insurance policy, and their automobile insurer would ultimately be responsible for paying the damages caused by the negligent acts of their insured, which include driving while intoxicated and failing to drive their car in a reasonably prudent manner.
What is the burden of proof in a civil drunk driving case?
Because drunk drivers can be criminally and civilly punished for driving under the influence, the burden of proof is different for each case. In a criminal court, the prosecution must show that an alleged drunk driver committed the act “beyond a reasonable doubt.” This is because in a criminal case, the prosecutor is acting on behalf of the State of Texas, and our legal system requires the prosecutor to meet a high burden of proof to potentially take away someone’s freedom or subject them to other consequences resulting from a criminal conviction.
The burden of proof in a civil case for liability in a drunk driving accident, however, is significantly lower. Because civil claims involve money damages, rather than potential loss of freedom or other consequences associated with a criminal conviction, the burden of proof in a civil case is a “preponderance of the evidence” standard. According to the Miriam-Webster dictionary, it simply means “greater in weight or number.” In relation to the burden of proof in a civil case, it means the evidence in the case tips the scales of justice towards one side or the other, and simply means that the evidence shows the claims at issue to be more likely true than false. Your Houston attorney can use video evidence, medical reports, or eyewitness testimony to prove that there is a preponderance of the evidence supporting the claims in your case to the judge or jury who will be deciding these issues at trial.
Who can be held liable for my injuries caused by a drunk driving accident?
In some drunk driving accidents, there may be additional parties outside of the drunk driver that are legally responsible for your injuries.
Establishments that serve alcohol
Based on the circumstances of your case, you may be able to pursue a claim against the establishment that was responsible for serving the drunk driver alcohol. Texas follows dram shop laws, which hold these establishments liable for the injuries caused by a drunk driver based on certain circumstances. If the establishment continued to serve alcohol to the driver who was already intoxicated, they can share liability for the drunk driver’s actions. If the establishment served alcohol to a minor who caused a drunk driving accident afterwards, the establishment can also be held liable for negligence. Commercial establishments licensed to serve alcohol by the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (“TABC”) are generally required to maintain liability insurance, and their insurance company would generally be responsible for paying for the damages caused by the insured commercial establishment if it negligently served an intoxicated driver.
What compensation can I seek from a drunk driving accident?
A drunk driver’s negligence can cause you serious harm and catastrophic injuries. Some of the damages that you can pursue in your drunk driving accident claim include:
- Pain and suffering
- Current and future medical bills
- In-home medical assistance
- Punitive damages
- Lost wages
- Lost earnings in the future
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Funeral expenses, if your loved one died from a drunk driving accident
How is my compensation covered?
For drunk driving accidents, the drunk driver’s personal insurance company will cover the costs of your compensation.
Some drunk drivers are uninsured during the time of the drunk driving accident. In these circumstances, you can exercise several options. One of the options involves filing an uninsured motorist insurance claim with your personal auto insurance if you had this type of coverage on your insurance policy at the time of the crash. If you have underinsured motorist coverage and the drunk driver’s insurance is insufficient to fully compensate you for your injuries, you may also be able to make a further claim for additional compensation for being hit by an underinsured motorist with your own insurance company.
What if the insurance company of the drunk driver tries to deny my claim or minimize my damages?
Because it is sometimes difficult to establish the liability of a drunk driver, the driver’s insurance company may try to initially deny your claim. One of the common ways that an insurance company denies a claim is to claim that the driver’s intoxication status did not contribute to your accident and the drunk driver was not at fault or not fully at fault in causing the crash.
Another common tactic the drunk driver’s insurance company may use is to argue that despite the other driver being intoxicated, you were not as badly hurt as you claim and your damages do not support the payment of the available insurance policy limits. This is a common argument made by insurance companies in many injury cases, and it is often nothing more than a pretext for them to pay less money than they should and justify an unreasonably low offer on your claim.
How our Houston drunk driving accident attorneys want to help you
Our Houston drunk driving accident attorneys put the needs of our clients first. We take a compassionate approach in fighting for our clients and working with you to try to achieve the best outcome possible for your case. We use our expertise to preserve and collect relevant evidence. We then use the evidence to accurately tell the whole story of what happened, who is responsible, and how the incident impacted your life. We force the insurance company to take all of these factors into account when evaluating the case, and we are prepared to present your case in court if they refuse to make a fair settlement offer.
Being injured in a drunk driving accident can be legally complex. Allow the Houston drunk driving attorneys at The Kishinevsky Law Firm to make the process easier. We want to help you recover the compensation that you deserve for your injuries. Call our office 832-LAW-1111 or submit our contact form today for a free consultation.
In April 2015, Leonid Kishinevsky started the Kishinevsky Law Firm, focusing his practice primarily on personal injury litigation. As a personal injury lawyer providing representation to clients throughout the greater Houston area, he assists people who have suffered economic and noneconomic losses and harms due to the fault of other people or companies.