Drunk Driving and Traffic Accidents in Denton County
A DWI/DUI arrest is a stressful event that can result in severe consequences. The problems, however, can be multiplied if you were involved in a traffic accident that resulted in your DWI/DUI arrest. Here’s a list of some of the things you should expect in case you are involved in a traffic accident resulting in a DWI/DUI arrest.
According to available statistics for a single recent year, 1,089 people in Texas were killed in traffic accidents involving drivers under the influence of alcohol. Alcohol-related deaths accounted for 32.2 percent of all traffic fatalities in Texas. This means that almost 1/3 of the traffic deaths in Texas involved alcohol. In that same year, 8,843 people suffered serious injuries in drunk driving accidents in both rural and urban areas of Texas.
This is on par with recent national data, which indicates that 10,265 people lost their lives in traffic accidents where alcohol was involved. That year, law enforcement arrested around 1.1 million drivers for driving under the influence.
According to available statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), every 51 minutes someone in the United States dies from an alcohol-related crash. The annual cost of these accidents is more than $59 billion.
Simply put, alcohol related accidents may result in more than just property damage and a DWI/DUI arrest.
Criminal or Civil Liability
If you are deemed responsible for the traffic accident and then cited and arrested for drunk driving, the case will likely diverge into criminal and civil liability, which are two related but distinct paths. The state of Texas will prosecute the criminal aspect of the case. In such instances, an assistant district attorney in the county of your arrest will be assigned to your case and will decide whether the case should proceed to trial, end in a plea deal, or be dismissed outright. The criminal case ensures that the driver responsible for the alcohol related traffic incident is punished within the bounds of law. The consequences of a conviction could vary widely from jail time to probation. In addition, community service and alcohol awareness classes may be ordered.
This bifurcation of cases can often lead to delay. Under the Fifth Amendment, a driver accused of a DWI/DUI cannot be compelled by the prosecution to testify in a case that might result in his or her self-incrimination. This is the reason most defendants do not testify during their civil trial as it might affect liability in their criminal suit. However it is not easy to wait for the criminal lawsuit to conclude before starting the civil case, as civil lawsuits often come with a statute of limitations to bring suit. Therefore, the state’s prosecution timeline cannot be allowed to hold up the civil case against a drunk driver. As such, the driver liable for the drunk driving traffic accident may face a criminal and civil trial at the same time.
It is important to note that in terms of the criminal case, you are not required to provide the victim of the alcohol related traffic accident any financial compensation for their injuries unless restitution is ordered by the judge as part of your criminal sentence. The restitution amount is typically small and requires the victim to file a civil case against you to get full compensation.
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The civil lawsuit allows the victim of the drunk driving related traffic accident to request compensation for various damages such as lost wages, pain and suffering, property damage, and medical treatment. Additionally, family members of the victim are sometimes allowed to sue the drunk driver for causing wrongful death in cases where the accident leads to a fatality.
In cases where the driver is properly insured, the driver along with their insurance company will be sued. In case the driver has no insurance, other avenues need to be explored by the victim and their attorney in order to get full compensation for the accident.
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The victim is more likely to prevail in their civil suit if the drunk driver is convicted in their criminal suit. This is because the burden of proof for liability is higher in a criminal case as the prosecution needs to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the motor vehicle was being operated by the driver while intoxicated. By comparison, a civil suit requires a showing that the driver was more likely to be drunk than not.
Because of the competing liabilities you may face if arrested for a DWI/DUI resulting in a traffic accident, it is recommended to have an experienced lawyer by your side. This increases your chances of a successful lawsuit without any unnecessary delay. The lawyer need to communicate with your insurance company, family members of the victim, doctors for the victim, law enforcement, and various other friends and witnesses in order to build a solid defense. Call today to find out how we can help you!