How Common are DWI Accidents in Texas?
Most people are shocked to find out how common it is in Texas for motorists to drive while under the influence of alcohol. Unfortunately, many of them learn of the harrowing statistics only after their lives have been negatively affected by a drunk or impaired driver. In 2016, over 60,000 people were arrested for DWIs in our state, and many organizations that track drunk driving statistics believe that no more than 1 in 100 impaired drivers on the road at any given time are caught. This means that the other 99 continue to be a danger to themselves and others until—and unless—they reach their destination.
What is a “DWI”?
Driving while intoxicated, or DWI, is defined in Texas as operating a motor vehicle when the driver’s blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) is 0.8% or higher. However, this assumes that the driver is 21 years or older and is not driving a commercial vehicle. Different BAC levels apply in special situations. For example, commercial truck drivers can be convicted of a DWI charge if their BAC is just 0.04%. For drivers younger than 21 years old, any detectable amount of alcohol can result in a DWI.
Every individual person’s body processes alcohol slightly differently, which is why the legal definition of DWI is based upon a BAC test and not simply the number or type of drinks that a driver has consumed that night. The most common BAC test is a breath analyzer, which measures the content of alcohol in the driver’s blood indirectly by measuring the alcohol in their breath. Sometimes, a true blood sample is taken to determine a driver’s level of impairment. These BAC tests can become powerful evidence in a civil lawsuit brought against the driver by the victim of a DWI car accident.
Exemplary Damages in DWI Cases
Texas law recognizes the seriousness of choosing to drive while intoxicated, and the harm that these drivers inflict upon innocent Texans and their families. If you have been in an accident that was the result of a suspected DWI driver, you may be able to receive an award of exemplary or punitive damages if you are successful at trial. “Exemplary damages” is a term for extra money that is awarded by the judge or the jury, not to directly compensate you for your injuries or financial losses, but rather as a direct punishment to the defendant for their extremely poor choices. Exemplary damages are only awarded at trial when there is evidence that the defendant behaved extremely badly – typically, either with bad intentions or the worst sort of recklessness.
Responsibility of Other Parties
In some cases, there are additional parties responsible for your injuries besides the driver who hit you. Under limited circumstances, bars and clubs that overserve their customers can be held responsible when those customers then go out driving drunk or impaired on the road and injure innocent people. One of the most important steps in a DWI case is for your attorney to investigate the facts that led up to the accident, including how the other driver became impaired and where, in order to determine whether other parties might be held legally liable for what happened to you. Oftentimes, when drinking establishments can be held liable, this greatly increases the chances of obtaining a large settlement or recovering full compensation at trial. If a driver has no assets but the establishment that served him and set him on the road has assets and insurance, they should be held responsible whenever possible. Only under specific circumstances is this possible, which is why it is important that victims of an accident involving a suspected DWI driver get attorney representation right away.
The Importance of Hiring a Personal Injury Attorney
You must be proactive if you’ve been injured by a suspected DWI driver, in order to protect your legal rights and maximize your chances to recover compensation for your injuries. In a DWI case, as with most other personal injury lawsuits, you should begin documenting your injuries, your treatment, and your financial losses immediately. An experienced personal injury attorney will be able to guide you through the best practices relating to this documentation. Your attorney can make sure you have access to medical providers who will speed your recovery, negotiate with insurance agents and hospitals, and determine whether the best course of action for your situation is to negotiate a settlement with the driver or to pursue your case all the way to trial. Call our attorneys at Mejias Lindsay today to discuss your case free of charge and see how we can help.