Texas leads in the nation in deaths caused by drunk driving, and the numbers are ugly. Consider this – one in every 10 fatalities associated with intoxicated motorists occurs in Texas. In 2013, 1,337 people died as a result of these crashes. California, a state with 40 percent more people, lost 1,025 people to intoxicated motorists. Clearly, while the problem has improved over the years, there is still a long way to go before it’s considered solved in Texas. And though attorneys can only help families after losing a loved one, this support can empower families and help them get the closure they need.
WHAT ARE THE LEGAL PROCESSES INVOLVED WHEN DEATHS ARE CAUSED BY DRUNK DRIVING?
To be clear, intoxicated motorists have very little protection when they cause a fatal accident. If they are arrested at the accident site, they will almost definitely be held liable. Police check for sobriety when assessing an accident, so intoxicated motorists generally have nowhere to hide.
However, individual motorists only rarely can pay a settlement, as insurance policies set fairly low limits compared to what a family truly deserves. That’s why a family’s attorney may review other parties that may share liability. In many cases, an intoxicated motorist is not the only responsible party, and there are others that could have stopped the accident.
This typically includes establishments that sell alcohol and anyone responsible for providing the motorist a vehicle. Bars, clubs and restaurants are required by law to observe when someone has had too much to drink and is not safe to operate a vehicle. If they continue serving a clearly intoxicated person, the establishment may also be named as a defendant. Relatives and friends of the motorist may not provide a vehicle if they have reason to believe the motorist may become intoxicated.
Even if multiple defendants are not involved, it is often personally important for families to get justice for any deaths caused by drunk driving. While it’s impossible to put an accurate number on what a loved one means to a family, a wrongful death attorney will do their best to calculate the damages involved. Some of these damages may include:
- Medical and burial expenses
- Loss of benefits and wages
- The family’s pain and suffering
- Loss of care, love, protection and companionship
- Loss of consortium
These damages are difficult to quantify, but deaths caused by drunk driving carry major damages, so they will be substantial. And in some cases, if a motorist’s negligence was especially grievous, they may receive punitive damages as well.
Nothing can replace a beloved parent, child or spouse, but a legal claim can at least get the recovery process started, and allow a family some measure of justice.