Corpus Christi Drunk Driving Accident Injury Law Firm
Whether you’re commuting or taking a weekend drive, it’s easy to get caught up in Corpus Christi’s beautiful beaches and Gulf Coast charm. The scenery makes it easy to drive from here to there, but if you travel at night, drive defensively and stay alert. As in many cities, nighttime is when drunk drivers most often come out.
Some drivers drink and get behind the wheel without acknowledging the dangers. They share the road with careful, sober drivers and sometimes cause collisions. As alcohol limits their ability to think, their driving skills diminish. A drunk driver loses their sense of reason, their reaction time, and their ability to skillfully maneuver a car. While under the influence of alcohol, drivers speed, drive recklessly, and participate in other risky behaviors that can cause major crashes and catastrophic losses. When the person is driving a large truck or commercial vehicle, the force of an accident can easily total a car and fatally injure its occupants.
When someone drinks and chooses to drive, that decision affects everyone around them. A single drunk driving accident has the power to ruin a family’s future. Drivers and their passengers sometimes sustain fatal injuries. Those who recover may be forced to manage lifelong disabilities. When a drunk driver is responsible for these losses, the experienced Personal Injury Lawyers in Corpus Christi at the Patel Firm PLLC are there to hold them accountable.
We Believe Drunk Drivers Should Pay for the Damages They Cause
At the Patel Firm, our attorneys handle cases for injured people only. We understand that when a drunk driver crashes into another vehicle, the impact often causes catastrophic injuries that ruin lives. We do everything within our power to hold drunk drivers accountable because we believe they should pay for the damages they cause.
Our attorneys have worked with many families who have been devastated by a drunk driver’s careless actions. We’ve seen injured victims struggle with high-dollar medical bills, expensive recovery efforts, and permanent disabilities that limit their ability to return to work. We understand the law, as well as liability and damage issues. We have committed our experience, resources, and knowledge to the process of recovering the damages our clients need to receive necessary treatment and live a decent life.
Our Law Firm’s Results
The attorneys at Patel Law work to resolve our clients’ cases as quickly as possible. We work efficiently because our attorneys understand the legal and damage complexities inherent to personal injury cases. We believe it’s important to be available when our clients need us, so we encourage potential clients to contact us any time, 24 hours a day, seven days a week if you have an issue that needs immediate attention.
Our founder, Attorney Minesh J. Patel, gained extensive personal injury experience while working with prominent South Texas injury law firms. Senior litigation attorney Justin P. Green also has a strong litigation background and has handled a variety of liability cases in court. Our attorneys put their expertise to work when handling drunk driver accident cases.
We always work for the resolution that is best for our injured clients. Often that means negotiating a case with the defendant or their insurance company representative. We also resolve our clients’ cases in mediation or present evidence at trial when need be.
Each injury case is unique and we can’t guarantee the same results for every injured client, but we always work hard to achieve the best resolution possible in each case.
Drinking and Driving in Texas
Intoxication while driving is a crime in Texas. The Penal Code, Title 10, Chapter 49, §49.01, has an all-inclusive definition of intoxication which covers alcohol and other substances. Under the statute, intoxication includes the use of “alcohol, a controlled substance, a drug, a dangerous drug, a combination of two or more of those substances, or any other substance.” The description also defines intoxication as having a blood, breath, or urine “alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more.” The statute makes several vehicle-related acts a crime if performed while intoxicated. These are:
- §49.02, Public Intoxication
- §49.031, Possession of Alcoholic Beverage in Motor Vehicle
- §49.04, Driving While Intoxicated
- §49.045, Driving While Intoxicated With a Child Passenger
The Texas Penal Code makes it clear that it’s a crime to mix alcohol and drugs with driving. Yet, each year, the Texas Department of Transportation and the National Highway Transportation Safety Association continue to document eye-opening facts and statistics, such as:
- Every 20 minutes someone in Texas sustains injuries or is killed in an alcohol-related accident.
- In 2018, TDOT documented 7,759 alcohol-related crashes in rural areas and 16,452 alcohol-related crashes in urban areas.
- In 2018, TDOT documented 467 fatal alcohol-related crashes in rural areas and 383 fatal alcohol-related crashes in urban areas.
- 374 Corpus Christi drivers were involved in alcohol-related accidents that caused 5 fatalities, 22 suspected serious injuries, 51 non-incapacitating injuries, 135 possible injuries, and 62 injuries of unknown severity.
- TDOT reports that 88.9 percent of all alcohol-related crashes statewide occur between early evening (6:00 pm) and early morning (6:00 am).
- NHTSA 2017 statistics show that 10,874 drivers were involved in alcohol-related crashes nationally.
- 1,492 intoxicated drivers who fatally injured passengers registered BACs at or above 0.08 percent.
Changing the Legal Response to Intoxication and Driving
The National Transportation Safety Board witnesses, first-hand, the death and destruction caused by alcohol and drug-impaired operators. The agency investigates major transportation accidents across the country. They have issued several recommendations to decrease the number of alcohol and drug-related accidents. These are:
- Provide more driver education;
- Increase high-visibility law enforcement;
- Reduce the legal BAC to 0.05 percent;
- Promote ignition interlock devices; and
- Pass tougher drinking and driving laws.
New Texas DWI Alternatives Hope to Change DWI Habits
The Texas legislature responded to the call for interlock devices by passing HB 3016. The bill amends existing statutes to allow court-ordered ignition interlock devices for first-time DWI offenders. As of September 1, 2019, the law implemented a “deferred adjudication” program. First-time DWI offenders may have an interlock device installed in their vehicles, which prevents the driver from starting a vehicle if they have an illegal BrAC (breath alcohol content).
If an offender’s trial period shows improved habits, the court dismisses the charges. If a first-time offender fails the interlock device trial period, the court issues its guilty verdict on the first case and handles any subsequent DWI arrest as a second offense.
None of that, however, helps people whom drunk drivers injured through their negligent behavior. For help paying for those expenses, call The Patel Firm PLLC today.
Alcohol Impairment Begins at Low Levels
Ignition interlock devices may help some Texas drivers rethink their drinking and driving habits. In Texas, the new law gives them a second chance to stop their dangerous driving behaviors. It restrains drinking and driving to comply with legal limits. Unfortunately, NHSTA research shows that legal BAC levels are still too high. In 2017, 1,837 of alcohol-related fatal crashes involved drivers with levels from 0.01 percent to 0.07 percent. At these levels, drivers show loss of judgment, diminished muscle and visual functioning, reduced coordination, and other impairments.
Drunk Drivers Cause Catastrophic Injuries
When motorists drive while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, their potential for causing catastrophic injuries increases. Alcohol reduces a driver’s ability to control their body and their car. It encourages risky driving behaviors such as speeding and distracted driving. Alcohol can also prevent a driver from registering danger and reacting in time. This combination of behaviors increases the potential for injury for both the impaired driver and other drivers in their vicinity.
A report issued by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety explains how a speeding driver enhances their car’s damage potential by increasing the force upon impact. Speed often causes excessive damage to other cars while simultaneously reducing safety and restraint-system effectiveness.
Some seriously injured victims die at an accident scene. Others live but must endure long-term recoveries, ongoing medical treatment, and financial setbacks due to medical expenses and lost income. Vehicle accidents cause more traumatic brain injuries and spinal cord injuries than any other type of accident. Victims often must live with multiple injuries, such as:
- Full or partial paralysis;
- Disc and spine injuries;
- Internal injuries;
- Severe burns;
- Multiple fractures and crushed bones;
- Traumatic amputations; and
- Fatal injuries.
Who Is Responsible for Drunk Driving Accidents?
A driver who chooses to drink and drive is responsible for the damages they cause. In some cases, other persons or entities share the driver’s liability, potentially including:
- Private passenger vehicle – A driver who chooses to drive drunk is legally responsible for accident-related damages. If the driver doesn’t own the vehicle, the owner may share liability for allowing a problematic driver to use the vehicle.
- Commercial vehicle – A trucker or other commercial vehicle operator is responsible for their own actions, but their employer or the vehicle owner may share liability. The employer is also responsible if a supervisor or owner knew or should have known about an employee’s poor driving history but allowed the driver on the road anyway.
- Bars or social hosts – Under Texas’s Alcoholic Beverage Code, a bar or host is potentially responsible for damages if they serve an obviously intoxicated guest. They may also incur liability when they serve a person under age 21.
A settlement for damages in Texas can include economic damages, non-economic damages, wrongful death damages, and sometimes punitive damages.
Economic damages reimburse an injured victim for the costs of out-of-pocket expenses related to the accident. A settlement includes the cost of incurred and future expenses. An economic damage settlement often includes:
- Medical bills;
- Hospital and rehabilitation costs;
- Lost income;
- Diminished earning capacity;
- Prosthetic and assistive devices;
- Therapy expenses;
- Medical transportation costs;
- Replacement services;
- Plastic surgery and scar revision; and/or
- Funeral and burial expenses.
A non-economic settlement attempts to place a dollar value on an injured person’s emotional or psychological injuries. These may include:
- Pain and suffering;
- Emotional distress;
- Diminished family and spousal relationships;
- Loss of bodily functions;
- Permanent scars;
- Permanent disabilities; and/or
- Lifestyle changes.
Wrongful Death Damages
When a drunk driver causes fatal injuries, the deceased person’s spouse, children, and parents may file a wrongful death action for emotional losses, financial support, gifts, and services the deceased would have provided throughout their lifetime.
Heirs, legal representatives, and the deceased person’s estate have a legal right to file a Survival action. This allows the family to recover medical expenses, pain, suffering, and other damages owed to the deceased person for expenses and losses incurred after an accident and before death. A wrongful death attorney would help you determine the value of your claim and any other precise details you may have about filing a claim.
Texas juries sometimes award punitive damages. A plaintiff must prove that the defendant was grossly negligent in causing the injuries.
How Do the Responsible Parties Defend Their Actions?
Drunk drivers are legally responsible for the damages they cause but those damages are usually covered by an insurance company. When an insurance company negotiates, they attempt to every case as economically as possible. They sometimes push a case toward trial, believing that a plaintiff will settle for a lower figure rather than incur discovery and trial costs.
Settlement problems also arise when an intoxicated driver has a low limit policy. This is often the case as people with bad driving histories often opt for an inexpensive policy with state minimum limits. Texas requires that drivers purchase policies with a $30,000 bodily injury liability limit per person, $60,000 per accident and a $25,000 property damage liability limit.
With a commercial vehicle, policy limits are rarely a factor. State, federal, and local governments require that commercial entities insure their vehicles with larger liability limits than personal vehicles. But commercial defendants and their insurance companies still push plaintiffs to settle for low dollar amounts. When commercial entities self-insure, any negotiated settlement costs come from their business assets. This also often motivates them to negotiate conservatively.
Some defendants and their insurance companies defend cases through trial. They sometimes believe that if they plead the right affirmative defenses, a judge or jury will award a smaller damage amount than the plaintiffs demand.
We Prepare Our Cases to Win
At the Patel Firm, we begin preparing our cases for possible trial during the early investigative stages. We continue evaluating and analyzing all aspects of liability and damages until we’ve resolved the issues and settled our clients’ cases. Our firm’s strengths allow us to stand up to legal challenges and defense strategies. We always prepare our cases to win.
Drunk Driving Accident FAQ
Recently, a Corpus Christi police officer was killed by a drunk driver as he was conducting a traffic stop of another driver who had been drinking. The officer’s widow filed a wrongful death lawsuit against four potentially liable parties. The lawsuit names the drunk driver who struck the officer and the bar who over-served that driver. Additionally, the suit names the drunk driver who caused the traffic stop and the owner of the car that was stopped. The complaint alleges the owner of the car should have known it was irresponsible to loan his car to the driver.
In Texas, around 1,000 people are killed each year in incidents involving drunk driving. Over one-quarter of all traffic accident fatalities in the state involve an intoxicated driver. If you or a loved one have been injured in a drunk driving accident, you may be eligible to pursue compensation. Injured victims may be entitled to financial compensation for accident-related damages. If the accident causes a victim’s death, surviving family members may seek compensation by filing a wrongful death claim. Below we answer some common questions about drunk driving accidents and the process of seeking compensation.
What are the dangers of drunk driving?
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, across the nation, drunk driving kills one person every fifty minutes. There are more than 10,000 deaths and hundreds of thousands of injuries caused by drinking and driving each year.
What makes drunk driving so dangerous?
- The legal limit for most drivers is 0.08 grams of alcohol per deciliter of blood, which generally requires the consumption of several drinks. However, for most people, the skills needed for driving begin to deteriorate well before this limit is reached.
- Utilizing some essential skills becomes progressively worse as a driver continues to consume more alcohol. For example, drivers may lose the ability to multitask, to brake and steer effectively, to perceive hazards, to concentrate, and to make good decisions.
- The estimated economic impact of accidents caused by alcohol impairment in the United States is around $44 billion a year. In calculating the costs, lost productivity, workplace losses, legal and court expenses, medical costs, emergency medical services, increased insurance costs, traffic congestion, and property damage are considered.
- A quarter of all alcohol impaired drivers involved in fatal accidents experienced a suspension or revocation of their license within five years of the accident. Nearly a quarter had previously been convicted of speeding, and one in five had been in an accident before.
What kind of accidents are caused by drunk drivers?
Nearly every type of motor vehicle accident can be caused by alcohol impairment. Some common accident scenarios involving a drunk driver may include:
- Head-on collisions caused by a driver who is driving the wrong way on an interstate ramp or other roadway.
- Failure to yield accidents caused by a drunk driver who fails to stop at a stop sign or red light.
- Sideswipe accidents caused by a drunk driver who cannot maintain his or her travel lane.
- Rear-end accidents caused by a drunk driver who cannot maintain lane position, brake effectively, or exhibit the level of concentration necessary for driving in traffic.
- Speeding accidents caused by a drunk driver who cannot make good decisions or brake effectively.
What are personal injury or wrongful death lawsuits? Who can file?
A personal injury lawsuit is a civil lawsuit filed by an individual who has been injured by someone else’s careless, reckless, or intentional actions. The lawsuit seeks to obtain compensation to cover damages and losses the injured person incurred as a result of the accident. Damages may include:
- Medical expenses.
- Lost wages.
- Loss of future earning capacity if victims are permanently disabled and cannot return to work in the same capacity as they did before the accident.
- Pain and suffering.
- Loss of enjoyment of life.
A wrongful death lawsuit is a civil lawsuit filed by the surviving family members of someone who was killed by another’s careless, reckless, or intentional actions. Family members who may be eligible to file a wrongful death lawsuit include:
- The deceased’s spouse;
- The deceased’s children, either minor or adult;
- The deceased’s parents; and
- If, after three months, family members have not filed a wrongful death lawsuit, a representative or executor of the deceased’s estate may file the claim.
The statute of limitations requires parties to file a personal injury or wrongful death claim within two years of the date of the accident or the death.
Do drunk driving accident lawsuits always go to court, or can a settlement be made outside of court?
The majority of civil suits in Texas, and elsewhere, settle outside of court. Many settle after a claim has been filed, but before the case proceeds to trial and a verdict is rendered. An experienced drunk driving attorney may engage in settlement negotiations with the responsible party’s insurance company on their client’s behalf. However, if negotiations cannot produce a fair settlement, an injured victim’s attorney should be prepared and willing to proceed to trial to litigate the case.
Is 0.08 the legal limit for all drivers in Texas?
In Texas, drivers who register an 0.08 blood or breath alcohol concentration are considered legally intoxicated. Legal intoxication subjects impaired drivers to criminal penalties, including fines, jail time, and driver’s license suspension. The penalties become more severe for subsequent offenses, or if the intoxicated driver has a child passenger under 15 years old.
How do you prove liability in a drunk driving accident?
Liability in personal injury or wrongful death cases is proven by showing that:
- The at-fault party owed the victim a duty of care. This duty of care depends on the at-fault party’s role in the accident. For example, drivers owe all other drivers a duty of care to operate his or her motor vehicle safely and legally. Employees of a business that serves alcohol owe a duty of care to others that they will not over-serve patrons, encouraging them to drive drunk.
- There was a breach in this duty of care. The at-fault party’s actions leading up to the accident must breach the duty of care. Driving drunk or failing to recognize that a customer was visibly drunk and should not be served more alcohol could constitute a breach of the duty of care.
- This breach led to the accident, which resulted in injury or death to the victim and subsequent expenses.
The drunk driver in my accident was driving a company car. Can a company be held liable for its employees’ actions?
Generally, companies may be legally responsible for the actions of their employees. Employees who are using a company car during the normal scope of their employment are serving as representatives for that company. Companies have the responsibility when hiring their drivers to ensure that drivers are properly trained and have a clean driving record. A drunk driving accident attorney can help injured victims identify all parties who may share responsibility for accident damages.
The drunk driver in my accident was arrested at the scene. Can I still file a lawsuit?
In short, yes, injured victims may file a lawsuit against a drunk driver who caused them injury. Drunk drivers often face both criminal and civil consequences for their actions. Driving while alcohol impaired is a criminal traffic offense that can lead to an arrest, charges, and conviction in criminal court. In this case, the federal, state, or local government will prosecute the offender. In the event of a conviction, the court will impose penalties including, driver’s license suspension, jail time, and fines.
In a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit, evidence of drunk driving may be used as evidence of legal liability. Proof of impaired driving can result in financial responsibility for accident-related injuries, deaths, and expenses. The outcome of any criminal proceedings will not impact the outcome of a civil claim for compensation. Although both originate from the same event, the criminal and civil claims operate independently of one another.
What evidence is used to show that a driver was intoxicated at the time of the accident?
An experienced drunk driving attorney may need a copy of the police report, indicating that roadside sobriety tests were performed by the at-fault driver. In addition, you may need to obtain a copy of the blood alcohol testing that was performed on the driver and other medical treatment indicating the driver was impaired.
Witness accounts may also constitute important evidence in a drunk driving case. Additionally, an attorney may investigate other sources of liability. For example, an establishment that serves alcohol may be liable if they over-served the driver before the accident. The driver’s previous driving record may also be used as evidence if the driver has a history of drunk driving.
Are drunk driving accident settlements or awards taxable?
Most of the time, personal injury or wrongful death settlements or awards are exempt from federal and state tax deductions. However, an exception applies in cases that provide an award of punitive damages. Punitive damages are awarded to victims whose injuries were caused by another’s particularly reckless behavior. Punitive damages are intended to punish the wrongdoer and deter similarly egregious behavior in the future.
What happens if my lawsuit isn’t filed within the statute of limitations?
In most cases, if you fail to file a claim within the time limit provided by the statute of limitations, you lose your right to seek damages. However, exceptions may allow injured victims to bring a claim even though the time limit has passed. A car accident attorney can inform their clients of important deadlines to keep them eligible to file a claim.
What is the average settlement in a drunk driving case?
There is no average settlement amount in personal injury or wrongful death claims involving drunk drivers. Each case is unique and the amount of compensation an injured victim may receive can vary widely. In determining the value of your case, an attorney may assist clients in calculating their economic damages, including medical expenses and lost wages, as well as non-economic damages.
Factors that may result in more compensation include:
- The severity of the accident;
- The permanence of the injuries;
- Significant and visible scarring;
- The pain associated with treatment for these injuries; and
- The amount of recklessness involved in the defendant’s actions that caused the accident.
How long will it take to settle my drunk driving case?
You may think that if another driver is impaired and causes an accident, the case should be straightforward with a quick settlement. However, circumstances may be less straightforward than they seem. Just as there is no average settlement in a drunk driving case, there is not a standard amount of time required for resolving these cases.
Your case can settle within weeks or it could require years of back-and-forth negotiation. In evaluating how long it may take for a case to be resolved, some considerations include:
- It is possible to obtain a quick settlement in almost any case. However, quick settlements often fail to fully cover medical expenses and impacts of long-term injuries. Be cautious when determining whether to accept a quick settlement. Upon accepting a settlement agreement, injured victims are almost always required to waive their right to seek additional compensation for their injuries.
- The highest settlements often come to those who are willing to wait. Many times, the insurance companies representing drunk drivers are unwilling to offer a fair settlement for damages upfront. Insurance companies may not be motivated to settle for the actual value of a claim until they are threatened with the possibility of litigation.
- An attorney may evaluate the adequacy of a settlement offer for their client. However, the injured party must ultimately decide whether it is in their best interests to accept a settlement or continue to negotiate.
If you were injured or have lost a loved one due to a drunk driver, you deserve to have answers to the legal questions specific to your case. The experienced drunk driving accident attorneys at The Patel Firm may help you to understand your legal rights and options. Contact us today for a free consultation and case evaluation.
Call Our Corpus Christi Drunk Driving Accident Injury Attorneys
If you or a family member has sustained injuries in an accident with an intoxicated driver, it’s important to take steps to protect your rights. The Patel Firm has recovered damages for many clients in Corpus Christi and throughout Texas. We’d like the opportunity to do the same for you. Call the Patel Firm at (361) 400-2036 or complete our contact form. We’ll schedule a free consultation, learn more about your case, and determine if we can help you.