Car accidents or other accidents involving a drunk driver not only hold harsh criminal penalties for the drunk driver, but also severe civil consequences.
If you have been in a car accident or injured by a drunk driver this will have a major effect on your personal injury case. Others may also be held liable for serving alcohol to the driver depending on the circumstances.
- Proof of Drinking and Driving
- Using Evidence of Drunk Driving During Negotiations/Trial
- Dram Shop Laws and Other’s Whom May be Liable
- Wrongful Death Suits Involving Drunk Drivers
Proof of Drinking and Driving
It is crucial to obtain evidence that the driver that caused the accident was drinking. A police report stating that the driver was legally intoxicated and/or had an open alcoholic beverage in the car at the time of the accident is the best evidence for negotiating a higher settlement or to use at a trial in a personal injury case. Signs that a driver may have been drinking or using marijuana are:
- The use of breath spray;
- Driver starts chewing gum or takes a breath mint;
- Driver uses eye drops;
- Driver tries to use the bathroom;
- The driver tries to say another person in the car was the driver (pay attention to who was driving the vehicle at the time of the accident); or
- The driver tries to get rid of trash in the vehicle (driver may attempt to get rid of open alcoholic beverage containers or drugs before the police arrive).
A drunk driver may attempt to do a number of things before a police officer arrives on the scene in order to cover up the fact that they are intoxicated, so it is important to pay attention to the actions of the driver after an accident and report any suspicious activity by the driver or suspicion of drinking and driving to the responding police officer.
When approaching the other driver after an accident pay attention to the possible smell of alcohol or marijuana, watch for the use of breath or body spray, use of eye drops, chewing of gum or breath mints, driver wanting or using the bathroom, throwing stuff away from car, and who was actually driving the vehicle. Make sure to obtain a copy of the police report to show that the driver was intoxicated, or had open alcoholic bottles in the car at the time of the accident to use during settlement negotiations or at a trial.
Also, a driver’s conviction for driving while intoxicated (DWI) or driving under the influence (DUI) can be used in a personal injury settlement negotiation if one has not been reached yet. Under Texas statute, a person commits a DWI if driving with a blood alcohol level (BAL) of .08 or higher. Under Texas statute, a DUI involves minors driving with any detectable amount of alcohol in their system.
Using Evidence of Drinking and Driving During Negotiations or at Trial
Providing a police report to the insurance company during a settlement negotiation can provide substantial leverage for negotiating a higher settlement. If the police report establishes that the other driver was legally intoxicated at the time of the accident and/or had an open alcoholic beverage container in the vehicle an insurance claims adjuster will factor in how this will look to a jury and the possible jury award that may be issued if the case does not settle and instead goes to trial. If a reasonable settlement cannot be reached and the case goes to trial the police report, police officer’s testimony, as well as, your own testimony can be used to establish a higher damages award.
Dram Shop Laws and Other’s Whom May be Liable
Others may also be held liable for your injuries in a personal injury case involving a drunk driver. Under Texas statute, a bartender or another person who serves, sells, or provides alcohol to a person when it is apparent that the person is intoxicated to the extent that the person presents a clear danger to themselves and others and the intoxication of the person was the proximate cause of the damages caused then the bartender or other person providing, serving, or selling the alcohol may be held liable. In Texas, however, the bartender may be shielded from liability under safe harbor laws if:
- The employee is required to attend a commission-approved seller training program;
- The employee actually attended the training program; and
- The employer did not directly or indirectly encouraged the employee to violate laws related to the selling and serving of alcoholic beverages.
If your accident involved a minor driving under the influence the person who provided the minor with alcohol may also be liable for your injuries. Under Texas statute an adult can be held liable for an accident caused by a minor if the adult was not the minor’s legal guardian, parent, or spouse and the adult knowingly provided or served the minor alcohol that contributed to the minor’s intoxication, or allowed the minor to be served or provided alcohol that contributed to the minor’s intoxication on the premise owned or leased by the adult.
Wrongful Death Suits Involving Drunk Drivers
If you have a family member that was killed in an accident involving a drunk driver you may have a wrongful death suit against the drunk driver. In Texas, if the person killed in the accident would have been able to bring a civil suit against the drunk driver if that person had lived then the family of the deceased driver may bring a wrongful death suit against the drunk driver. A wrongful death suit against a drunk driver may cover funeral expenses, medical bills, loss of future earning capacity, loss of consortium, and other damages. A wrongful death suit may be brought up to two years from the date of the accident.
An accident involving a drunk driver can be horrific, however, establishing that the driver was under the influence of drugs or alcohol can lead to a higher settlement or personal injury award for damages. Others may also be held liable for providing, serving, or selling alcohol to the person that caused the accident.