Drunk driving accidents are all too prevalent in the state of Texas, and victims often suffer greatly for the poor judgement exercised by the drunk driver who struck them. It is illegal under Texas’ drunk driving statutes to operate a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, and yet many people still do, which leads to unnecessary drunk driving accidents.
Drunk Driving Accident Statistics for Houston, Texas
According to the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles Crash Statistics for 2014, drunk driving accidents are a serious issue. For instance:
- Statewide, there were 925 fatal alcohol-related accidents resulting in 1,041 fatalities.
- Statewide, there were 3,779 alcohol-related accidents resulting in 6,304 injuries.
- In Harris County, there were 152 fatal alcohol-related accidents resulting in 177 fatalities.
- In Harris County, there were 1,006 alcohol-related accidents resulting in 1,679 injuries.
- The city of Houston had 78 fatal alcohol-related accidents resulting in 85 deaths.
- The city of Houston had 508 alcohol-related accidents resulting in 893 injuries.
Drunk drivers not only face criminal liability for the danger that they posed to the public as a result of their drunk driving, but injured parties can also seek damages from drunk drivers through civil actions to recover medical expenses, compensation, lost wages and other damages.
Types of Suits That Can Be Brought Against Drunk Drivers
In addition to the criminal charges that drunk drivers face, injured victims can bring a number of civil actions against the drunk driver, and the drinking establishments that enabled the drunk driver to get so intoxicated in the first place. Victims can bring:
- Negligence actions against the drunk driver;
- Dram shop liability actions against the drinking establishment (i.e., bars, restaurants, liquor stores or other establishments that serve or provide alcohol) that enabled the drunk driver to become a danger to the public; and/or
- Wrongful death actions on behalf of deceased victims of the drunk driving accident.
Proof Of The Liable Party’s Intoxication
When it is suspected that an automobile accident was caused by a drunk driver, the police officer who arrives at the scene of the accident can act on that reasonable suspicion to investigate further. The officer might question the suspected drunk driver, might look for signs of intoxication or alcohol in the vehicle, and could request that the driver participate in field sobriety testing. If the officer determines that there is probable cause to believe that the driver is operating the vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, the officer can make an arrest for drunk driving.
Upon arrest, the driver can be subjected to chemical testing, which will provide an estimate of the driver’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC), based on a blood test or a breath test. The driver is considered to have a BAC over the legal limit when the driver has:
- A BAC of 0.02 or higher while under the age of 21;
- A BAC of 0.08 or higher when over the age of 21; or
- A BAC of 0.04 or higher if the driver holds a commercial driver’s license.
If the suspected drunk driver is fatally injured in the accident, the officer may exercise discretion in ordering a BAC test be performed on a deceased driver to preserve evidence on the record of the deceased driver’s intoxicated state at the time of the accident.
A victim in a drunk driving accident in a civil suit has the burden of proving that the other driver who is responsible for the accident was intoxicated at the time of the accident. A police report indicating the arresting officer’s suspicions when they arrived at the scene of the accident, in addition to witness testimony, field sobriety test results, and chemical testing results, can all be used to demonstrate that the other driver was drunk behind the wheel.