Texas leads the way in something that nobody is proud of: the number of annual drunk driving accidents. In 2015, drunk drivers caused 1,337 deaths in our state. Often times, people who die or are seriously injured due to a drunk driver, may be left without recourse because the motor vehicle they were driving is covered by an insurance policy that excludes certain damages, even if a jury were to award those damages. Some motor vehicle insurance policies exclude punitive damages. Therefore, if you or someone you love was injured by a drunk driver, you should hire a personal injury attorney as soon as possible so they can investigate the matter promptly before medical bills and lost wages become too high.
Texas Drunk Driving Laws
In Texas, if a person is convicted or pleads guilty of driving while intoxicated (“DWI”), that means they did not: 1) have the normal use of mental or physical faculties by reason of the introduction of alcohol, a controlled substance, a drug, a dangerous drug, a combination of two or more of those substances, or any other substance into the body; or 2) they had an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more. If the reason for their intoxication is alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more, that is what is commonly referred to as “drunk driving”. Of course, a person who is intoxicated due to other means such as drugs is just as likely to cause terrible harm to another.
The State will use the person’s blood alcohol concentration (“BAC”) to determine whether or not the person was too drunk to operate a motor vehicle. Texas law sets a number of BAC limits to limit more what the alcohol content can be in certain special circumstances. For example, if a person is 21 years of age or older, he or she cannot legally drive if their BAC is more than .08. But, they are a commercial or business driver, their BAC cannot be more than a .04. Those individuals are supposed to be tested immediately after a serious collision to determine whether they were intoxicated. And, if a person is younger than 21 years of age, they cannot have any detectable amount of alcohol.
Drunk Driving Penalties in Austin
A person who is caught driving intoxicated in Texas, and if it is their first offense, then the following penalties may apply:
- Jail time between three days and 180 days;
- A fine of up to $2,500;
- Annual surcharge of up to $2,000 for three years to keep their driver’s license;
- Driver’s license suspension for up to two years;
- DWI intervention or education programs; and
- A possible ignition interlock device.
The court should also take into account (and often will) what compensation if any, has been given to the victims of a drunk driver. Unfortunately, many offenders who are lucky enough to not injure anyone, escape their first offense with light punishment, leaving them undeterred to continue their reckless conduct. Several crashes involving fatalities caused by drunk drivers are caused by people who had been convicted of prior DWI offenses.
Establishing Negligence in a Drunk Driving Crash in Austin
Most ordinary car accidents in Texas normally fall under negligence theories. Under Texas state law, for a successful negligence case against a driver, you must establish the following:
- That the driver owed you a duty;
- The driver breached this duty;
- The breach was the actual cause of the injuries;
- It was a proximate (foreseeable) cause of your injuries; and
It is often easier to establish negligence in a drunk driving accident once the fact that the driver was intoxicated is proved, because drunk driving is considered negligence per se. Negligence per se arises whenever an individual acts in violation of a statute meant to protect others; here, a drunk driver is violating a statute prohibiting driving while under the intoxication, and as a result is considered negligent per se automatically.
Statute of Limitations
Car accidents in Texas are governed by a two-year statute of limitations. That means a person has two years from the date of the crash to file a lawsuit. If a person does not file within this two year period, they are most likely barred from ever doing so. However, as explained in other sections of this website, a person should never delay hiring an attorney to get assistance in filing a lawsuit. Waiting too long, even if within the two-year statute can result in loss of evidence that may lead a law firm to reject your case.
Contact a Drunk Driving Accident Lawyer in Austin NOW!
If you or someone you love has been injured in a drunk driving accident, you need to contact Pastrana Law Firm at
512-474-4487 and let one of our experienced lawyers help you.