Drunk Driving / Drug Use While Driving
Say you are in an Automobile Collision and are hit in the rear by a young man that told you he had been drinking alcohol and/or smoking marijuana at a party. The police are called and you tell them what he told you – that he had been drinking and smoking pot -and then you go back to your car like the police officer tells you. You never talk to the young man again. The police report shows the young man told the police officer he had been drinking but he was not arrested for Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) or Driving under the Influence (DUI).
Your car is damaged and you are hurting badly. NOW the insurance company has told you that since he was not arrested for DWI or DUI the fact that he had been drinking Alcohol and/or smoking pot can never be considered by them or a jury in awarding you damages. Is that right?
Absolutely NOT! A Civil claim for damages is completely separate from a Criminal charge. In Texas if any amount of alcohol and/or drugs, whether legal or illegal “impairs” you from driving properly it can be presented as evidence and considered by the jury for not only your actual damages but punitive damages. Punitive damages are damages that are awarded solely to punish and deter the drunk driver from doing this again. A punitive damage award sends a message to the community that juries will not stand for drunk drivers who drink and drive and then let them and their insurance companies deny, delay and defend a suit and argue to the jury that they have already been punished by the State or that they are “too poor” to pay for what they have caused.
In other cases, the driver may be arrested for DWI or DUI and be charged with a Criminal Act as well as be responsible for causing the collision and causing your injuries and damages. Can you still claim all your damages plus punitive damages in a Civil Action?
YES! You can and should claim both actual and punitive damages in a civil action. Some people may say “Well isn’t that why they are charged with a crime so they can be punished for impaired driving in a Criminal Action?” The drunk was punished in the criminal action for the one (1) time HE WAS ACTUALLY CAUGHT DRIVING DRUNK.
According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD)
- An average drunk driver has driven drunk at least 80 times before his first arrest;
- 33 1/3% of drivers that are arrested and convicted of drunk driving are REPEAT offenders who didn’t learn their lesson the first, second or sometimes the third time;
- 50% to 75% of the first time offenders continue to drive even though their license is suspended;
- Every day 27 people die as the result of drunk driving crashes;
- One (1) out of every three (3) people in America will be in an alcohol related crash in their lifetime and
- Drunk driving costs each adult in America almost $500.00 a year.
Once juries start awarding substantial punitive damages in drunk driving or impaired drug cases in the range of $250,000 to $500,000 on each case you can rest assured that drunk drivers and their insurance companies will be settling these cases without a suit.
Juries won’t be bothered with these types of clear cut cases where defendants and their insurance companies raise “frivolous” defenses and waste everyone’s time.