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Drunk and Impaired Driving: A Crash Victim’s Essential Guide

Aug 25, 2020 Drunk Driving Accidents, Vehicle Wrecks

Experts anticipated a decrease in drunk driving arrests during the COVID-19 pandemic since fewer people were supposed to be on the roads. Instead, drunk driving rates stayed the same and then increased once bars reopened.

If you or a loved one suffered injuries due to a drunk driver, you probably have many questions. At Crosley Law, we want to help. Our injury attorneys have represented drunk driving victims for decades, helping them navigate their complex claims and get the compensation they deserve. In this article, we outline the essentials that everyone needs to know after a drunk driving crash.

COVID-19 Didn’t Slow Down San Antonio’s Drunk Driving Rates

Due to the stress of the COVID-pandemic and Texas’ stay-at-home orders, alcohol consumption has been increasing. During the early days of the shutdown, U.S. alcohol sales shot up 55% in just one week. Unfortunately, many people didn’t just drink at home.

Even though San Antonio’s bars were closed and Fiesta was canceled, drunk driving arrests only went down by 4%. In 2019, there were 2,255 DWI arrests in San Antonio between January 1 and July 6 — a period which included Fiesta. In 2020, there were 2,168 DWI arrests. Many of these arrests occurred after Texas reopened bars in May.

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While data isn’t available for San Antonio, the city of Austin, Texas reported that drunk driving arrests increased by 200% when bars and restaurants reopened. In Houston, DWI rates also dramatically spiked during the same time.

It’s not clear how the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic will impact San Antonio’s drunk driving statistics. While Texas shut bars down again in June 2020, many bars are skirting the rules by redefining themselves as “restaurants” or reworking their sales numbers. Meanwhile, to-go alcohol sales are becoming incredibly popular.

Texas’ Drunk and Drugged Driving Laws: The Fundamentals

In Texas, it is illegal to drive while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. If you’re found driving with a blood-alcohol concentration above 0.08 or while under the influence of drugs, you can face criminal penalties, including jail time and fines. You also cannot have open containers of alcohol in your vehicle, even if your motor vehicle is parked or stopped.

When you research “drunk driving,” most people focus on these criminal penalties. However, there’s more to Texas’ drunk driving laws. If an impaired driver injures or kills someone, they may also be financially liable under the state’s personal injury laws.

The Differences Between Criminal and Civil Drunk Driving Cases

If a drunk driver injured you, a prosecutor may press charges and try to convict them of a DWI. This is a criminal case, and its goal is to punish wrongdoing, not compensate you for your injuries. The State of Texas will handle the criminal prosecution, but they may ask you to cooperate.

In addition to the criminal case, you may also have personal injury claims. However, the prosecutor will not handle this lawsuit for you. Instead, a drunk driving accident lawyer can help you file claims with the correct insurance companies, try to negotiate a settlement, and (if necessary) present your case to a jury.

While criminal prosecutors must prove their case “beyond a reasonable doubt,” you won’t have to face this very difficult standard in a civil personal injury case. Instead, if you can prove that the at-fault driver was most likely acting recklessly or negligently, you should be eligible for compensation. In fact, it’s possible to file a civil lawsuit even if the prosecutor decided not to press charges against the drunk driver.

However, you should not wait until the criminal case is closed before you talk to a personal injury lawyer. In Texas, you only have two years to file a personal injury lawsuit. If you wait too long, you may miss this deadline, or you may discover that valuable evidence was lost or destroyed. To protect yourself, it’s always best to consult an experienced San Antonio drunk driving injury lawyer as quickly as possible.

4 Things You Must Do to Protect Your Drunk Driving Injury Claim

After a drunk driving crash, it’s important to act quickly and decisively. Prompt action could save lives and ensure that the at-fault driver is held accountable. It’s always best to take the following steps after a wreck with an impaired driver.

1. Call 911 and Cooperate With the Authorities

Immediately after the collision, call 911 and request assistance. If you already suspect that the driver is intoxicated, report your concerns to the emergency operator. If possible, provide details. For example, if the driver approached you and smelled heavily of alcohol, or if you saw them disposing of bottles or cans, report what you observed to both the operator and the police officers.

This information can help the authorities recognize a potential drunk driver, and your concerns should be noted in the police report. Later, this documentation may serve as powerful evidence in a personal injury claim.

2. Preserve Your Evidence

In addition to cooperating with law enforcement, you can actively preserve evidence. For example, you could take pictures or videos of the crash scene, your injuries, and the vehicles involved. These images may help accident reconstructionists and other experts explain the causes and severity of the crash.

Electronic data can help your case, too. For example, many commercial vehicles have onboard systems that track the vehicle’s every move. These systems may even record what’s going on inside and outside the vehicle. Nearby businesses may also have surveillance footage of the crash. However, if you wait too long, this information may get lost or destroyed. So, you’ll want your lawyer to start their investigation as soon as possible.

3. Get Medical Treatment for Your Injuries

Immediately after a serious car crash, you may not fully understand the severity of your injuries. Your body will be pumped full of endorphins, the “fight or flight” chemicals that help us function under stressful circumstances. Unfortunately, these chemicals can also mask injuries. And some conditions, like herniated discs and concussions, can take time to develop.

The sooner you see a doctor, the faster your medical team will identify these developing injuries. If you feel any discomfort after a car crash, you should seek medical treatment.

Medical records are also an essential part of your drunk driving injury claim. These records provide fact-based information about the severity of your injuries, help us understand your likelihood of a full recovery, and document your treatment. Without strong medical evidence, it’s tough to win a personal injury claim.

Also, make sure you keep copies of all of your medical bills so your San Antonio drunk driving injury attorney can include them in your settlement demand.

4. Work With a Personal Injury Lawyer Who Understands Drunk Driving Claims

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If you survived a drunk driving crash, you’ll want to spend your time focusing on your recovery, not your legal claims. And if you lost your loved one due to a drunk driver’s recklessness, litigation is the last thing on your mind. That’s why many families turn to the trusted injury attorneys at Crosley Law. We’ve built a national reputation for our detailed investigations, cutting-edge legal tactics, and track record of results.

When you work with our law firm, we’ll handle most of the details of your case, giving you the time and space you need. However, we’ll keep you informed at every step. We’ll educate you about your options, explain Texas’ negligence laws, and provide you with the emotional support you need.

Drunk Driving Injury Settlements: What’s Your Case Worth?

If the insurance company offers you a quick settlement after a drunk driving crash, you should be wary. Insurance companies often try to make lowball offers and close out cases as quickly as possible. The insurance adjuster hopes you’ll undervalue your case and take a lump-sum payout before you talk to an experienced lawyer.

Drunk driving victims may be entitled to numerous damages, including:

  • Medical bills and the cost of your future medical care
  • Lost income and wage-earning capacity
  • The cost of repairing or replacing your damaged property
  • Improvements that you make to your home or vehicle to make them accessible
  • Pain and suffering
  • Emotional distress
  • Loss of companionship and consortium
  • Funeral and burial expenses
  • Punitive damages

Unlike other forms of damages, punitive damages aren’t designed to compensate you for your losses. Instead, they aim to punish a wrongdoer for their intentional or reckless actions. While punitive damages are relatively rare in a “typical” personal injury claim, they often come into play in cases involving drunk or drugged driving.

“Unlike other forms of damages, punitive damages aren’t designed to compensate you for your losses. Instead, they aim to punish a wrongdoer for their intentional or reckless actions. While punitive damages are relatively rare in a “typical” personal injury claim, they often come into play in cases involving drunk or drugged driving.”

However, if you do not demand punitive damages early in your claim, they may become unavailable. So, it’s important to act quickly and consult with a knowledgeable drunk driving injury lawyer.

You may also have legal claims against parties other than the drunk driver. For example, if the driver was in the course of their employment, you can demand compensation from the company. Similarly, if a bar or restaurant overserves someone, you may have a dram shop liability claim against the establishment.

We Can Help

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Crosley Law: Fighting for Drunk Driving Accident Survivors and Their Families

If a drunk driver injured you or someone you love, the injury attorneys at Crosley Law want to help. Our team has built a reputation based on our cutting-edge and compassionate approach to impaired driving injury claims. To schedule your free consultation, you can reach us at 210-LAW-3000 | 210-529-3000 or fill out our contact form.

References

Bremner, J. (2020, April 1). U.S. alcohol sales increase 55 percent in one week amid coronavirus pressure. Newsweek. Retrieved from https://www.newsweek.com/us-alcohol-sales-increase-55-percent-one-week-amid-coronavirus-pandemic-1495510

Oxner, R. (2020, August 10). Restaurants, bars and breweries scramble to reinvent themselves to get around Gov. Greg Abbott’s bar shutdown. The Texas Tribune. Retrieved from https://www.texastribune.org/2020/08/10/texas-bars-restaurants-gov-greg-abbott-shutdown/

Patton, M.C. (2020, July 8). Despite coronavirus shutdowns, San Antonio DWI arrests on par with 2019. KSAT. Retrieved from https://www.ksat.com/news/local/2020/07/08/despite-coronavirus-shutdowns-san-antonio-dwi-arrests-on-par-with-2019/

Shay, M. (2020, May 26). DWI numbers rising quickly as Houston reopens. ABC 13. Retrieved from https://abc13.com/covid-19-pandemic-coronavirus-dwi/6213046/

Tamplin, H. (2020, June 3). DWI arrests in Austin doubled the first weekend bars reopened in May, new data shows. KXAN. Retrieved from https://www.kxan.com/news/crime/dwi-arrests-in-austin-doubled-the-first-weekend-bars-reopened-in-may-new-data-shows/

The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.

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