Drunk drivers are a menace on the roadways. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), alcohol-impaired driving killed 10,497 people in the U.S. in 2016.
At The Law Offices of Willie D. Powells III and Associates, PLLC, we are tough advocates for victims of drunk driving accidents. Our Houston injury lawyer is committed to holding drunk drivers accountable and recovering the maximum compensation available under the law for the people they injure.
How Does Alcohol Affect Driving Ability?
Alcohol reduces brain function and impairs thinking, reasoning, and muscle coordination – abilities essential to operating a motor vehicle. As blood alcohol levels rise, effects on the central nervous system increase.
Alcohol is absorbed through the walls of the stomach and small intestine, passes into the bloodstream, and accumulates until the liver metabolizes it.
Blood Alcohol Concentration Effects
The weight of alcohol in a certain volume of blood is known as blood alcohol concentration (BAC). The risk of an accident increases dramatically with a BAC of .08 grams of alcohol per deciliter of blood. For this reason, .08 is the legal limit in all U.S. states. Effects of .08 BAC include:
- Poor muscle coordination, affecting speech, vision, hearing, balance, and reaction time
- More difficulty detecting danger
- Impaired judgment, self-control, reasoning, and memory
Civil vs Criminal Actions Against Drunk Drivers
It is against the law in Texas to drive while intoxicated or with a BAC of .08 or higher. A drunk driver who causes an accident with injuries will likely be arrested and charged with DWI. This is an entirely separate action from a civil suit to recover compensation, although evidence in the criminal case may be used to support your claim.
If you have been hurt in a crash caused by a drunk driver, it is necessary to file a claim with the driver’s insurance company or file a lawsuit in court to recover compensation. It is the only way to receive a settlement or award that will cover your medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other losses.
Punitive Damages for Drunk Driving Accidents
In addition to compensatory damages to cover your losses, the court may award punitive damages if you have been hurt by a drunk driver. Also known as exemplary damages, punitive damages are designed to punish the defendant for grossly negligent or malicious behavior, and to deter similar behavior in the future. To be awarded punitive damages, you must provide clear and convincing evidence of gross negligence, such as the driver’s intoxication level and behavior before and after the crash.
Dram Shop Laws and Drunk Driving Accidents
The Texas Dram Shop Act is contained in the Alcoholic Beverage Code, Title 1, Chapter 2. It spells out the liability of establishments that serve alcohol for drunk driving accidents and other personal injury claims arising from the actions of an intoxicated person served in those establishments. If the bar, restaurant, or establishment continues to serve a customer who is obviously intoxicated, and that customer causes a drunk driving accident, the victim may sue the establishment for damages, in addition to the drunk driver.