Drunk Driving Accident Third Party Claims
In McAllen, the drunk driver is not the only individual that you may hold responsible for your injuries. Working with a knowledgeable McAllen drunk driving accident attorney can help you identify other parties that may have played a role in your accident.These other at-fault parties may include:
- The employer: In certain situations, if drunk drivers cause accidents while acting within the scope of their employment, their employers may face liability. For instance, if a truck driver was intoxicated and crashed into you on the way to making a delivery, you could bring a suit against that driver’s trucking company.
- The vendor: Texas laws allow you to bring a claim against vendors who served or sold alcohol to intoxicated individuals or to minors, who then caused an accident. According to the Alcoholic Beverage Code, an establishment (bar, restaurant, nightclub, etc.) may face liability for selling alcohol to an obviously intoxicated individual. However, the individual bringing the lawsuit needs to prove that the individual was obviously intoxicated to the degree that he or she posed a danger to others at the time of purchasing alcohol.
- The social host: Texas law allows plaintiffs to bring claims against “social hosts” who contribute to alcohol-related accidents if the host was over 21 and provided alcohol to a minor younger than 18. As long as the social host was not the minor’s legal guardian or spouse and knowingly provided an alcoholic beverage to the minor or allowed the minor to drink on the social host’s property, then he or she may also face liability for the accident.
As you can see, going after these third parties requires detailed evidence. With the help of a McAllen drunk driving accident attorney, you can gather the evidence needed to identify each of the potentially liable parties and go after maximum compensation.
McAllen Drunk Driving Accident FAQ
Drunk driving is a crime for a reason. Those who drive under the influence put every other person on the road at risk for accident and injury. If you have sustained injuries in a drunk driving accident in or around McAllen and the Rio Grande Valley, Texas law permits you to seek compensation in civil court for losses related to the accident and injuries.
You should not have to face the economic hardship that often accompanies severe accident injuries because a careless person decided to get behind the wheel after consuming alcohol. A McAllen drunk driving accident lawyer can review your case and determine your eligibility for compensation. We have provided answers to the following frequently asked questions to provide preliminary information until you have the opportunity to consult our McAllen drunk driving accident attorneys.
Contact Patino Law Firm today to set up a consultation.
How long do I have to file a claim after a McAllen drunk driving accident?
You need to immediately report a drunk driving accident to your insurance company and file a claim with the drunk driver’s insurance policy to initiate the claims process. If you choose to bring a McAllen drunk driving accident claim against, Texas law requires you to file the lawsuit within the state’s two-year statute of limitations.
Texas courts are bound by the law, so they seldom hear cases from drunk driving accident victims who attempt to bring a lawsuit after the end of the two-year time limit. The law does allow for some rare exceptions. Your McAllen drunk driving accident attorney can evaluate your case and determine whether your case warrants an extension. The attorneys at Patino Law Firm are here to help.
Who pays for my hospital bills after a McAllen drunk driving accident?
You are financially responsible for your medical treatment costs regardless of why you landed in the emergency room or hospital. Depending on the type of health insurance you have, your policy should initially cover some of your medical expenses. Drunk driving accidents can cause severe injuries that lead to massive medical expenses, and in many cases, victims miss weeks or months of work. In the most severe cases, victims and their families face bankruptcy, foreclosure, vehicle repossession, and more when they cannot cope with the economic burden that comes from drunk driving accident injuries.
If you are overwhelmed with medical bills after a drunk driving accident, you potentially will get reimbursed for anything you have paid once your case is settled or litigated. If you receive compensation, your lawyer will pay any outstanding medical expenses before giving your cut to you. In the meantime, you should pay what you can and communicate your situation to your medical providers. They sometimes put accounts on hold or set up patients on a payment plan when they know an insurance claim or lawsuit is in the works.
If you ignore your medical bills without speaking with your providers, they will likely send you to collections. This will negatively impact your credit and add more emotional distress in the wake of a drunk driving accident.
What things can I get compensated for after a McAllen drunk driving accident?
Under Texas law, you have the right to seek compensation in civil court for damages from the drunk driver who harmed you. If you settle with the driver’s insurance company, or the court rules in your favor if you have to go to trial, you could receive compensation for many of the losses related to the accident and your injuries.
Drunk driving accident victims may receive compensation for:
- Medical treatment costs including ambulance services, emergency room treatment, hospital stay, diagnostic tests, surgery, follow-up care, prescription medication, and travel expenses to and from the doctor or hospital.
- Estimated future medical treatment costs when a drunk driver causes severe injuries that require more surgery, more recovery time, or a permanent disability that requires ongoing care and treatment.
- Rehabilitation costs including specialized treatment such as physical therapy, occupational therapy, behavioral therapy, or other specialized treatment to help drunk driving accident victims cope with the physical and emotional fallout from their injuries.
- Expenses for medical devices and technology to help accident victims. This may include wheelchairs, crutches, and special computer software for communication.
- Lost income from time away from their job resulting from injury, hospitalization, and recovery.
- Lost earning capacity when injuries from a drunk driving accident prevent a victim from returning to work or seeking future employment.
- Pain and suffering.
- Mental distress.
- Diminished quality of life.
- Loss of consortium with a spouse if applicable.
- Scarring and disfigurement.
Will I receive exemplary damages for my McAllen drunk driving accident injuries?
Texas courts reserve exemplary damages, which are sometimes referred to as punitive damages, for rare situations. Exemplary damages serve to punish defendants for egregious negligence and deter them and others from future negligent behavior.
According to Texas law, plaintiffs in lawsuits must prove a drunk driver acted out of fraud, malice, or gross negligence. In some drunk driving accident cases, courts find that a drunk driver acted with gross negligence, especially if they have a history of drinking and driving. The burden of proof lies with the plaintiff, which means your attorney must prove the drunk driver acted with gross negligence.
Your attorney can evaluate the circumstances of your drunk driving accident and advise you on whether you might be eligible for exemplary damages. Contact Patino Law Firm today for more information.
Why do I have to sue to receive compensation when drunk driving is a crime?
Criminal prosecution for the crime of driving under the influence of alcohol is completely different from a civil lawsuit to determine financial liability for damages related to injuries. A drunk driving criminal conviction in Texas carries penalties such as fines, license revocation, license suspension, and potential time in jail. A jury must find the driver guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a criminal trial, and the decision must be unanimous.
The outcome of a civil trial decides who is financially responsible for damages related to a drunk driving accident. Juries in civil trials are not held to the same standard as those in criminal trials. The majority of a jury must agree that the defendant is more likely responsible for damages than not based on a preponderance of the evidence. Criminal proceedings for drunk driving often end before a civil lawsuit begins. The criminal trial outcome does not impact the civil trial, but some lawyers choose to wait for the outcome to help build a case for their clients.
Can I sue the establishment that served the McAllen drunk driver who caused my injuries?
Like many other states, Texas has laws that govern liability when businesses serve alcohol to customers who cause injuries after they leave the establishment. These laws, called dram shop laws, outline the extent to which a business or their employees may be financially responsible for their customers’ actions if they cause injuries after the business has served them alcohol.
Texas’s Alcoholic Beverage Code contains its dram shop laws, which require the following to take legal action against the business that served alcohol to the driver who caused your injuries:
- The bartender or whoever served alcohol must have known the patron was intoxicated and would pose a danger to others.
- The driver’s intoxication caused the accident, injuries, and associated losses.
Businesses are not the only entities that open themselves up to potential liability when they serve alcohol to drivers. Social hosts could also be liable for damages related to a drunk driving accident if they knowingly give alcohol to a minor and that alcohol contributes to the intoxication that led to an accident. Even social hosts who allow minors to get drunk but do not provide alcohol could be liable if the minor gets behind the wheel and causes a dangerous accident.
What if the McAllen drunk driver who hit me does not have auto insurance?
Under Texas law, all drivers who register a motor vehicle must carry a minimum amount of bodily injury liability (BIL) coverage unless they have the financial resources to self-insure and pay for damages if they cause a traffic collision. If the drunk driver does not have BIL coverage or has a low policy limit compared to damages, you may have limited options to recover losses related to your injuries.
If you have uninsured motorist (UM) or underinsured motorist (UI) coverage, you can file a claim under your own auto insurance policy to recover losses. If you do not have UM or UI coverage, you must absorb your losses or bring a lawsuit directly against the drunk driver who caused you harm. Yet, if the driver had the financial resources to pay damages in a lawsuit, they would likely also have the money to carry the proper amount of auto insurance. Courts sometimes garnish wages to collect judgments from defendants, but it could take years before you see any money, if at all.
Can I sue my friend for injuries if I was a passenger in a McAllen drunk driving accident?
Yes, you could sue your friend to seek compensation for damages related to the injuries you suffered in a drunk driving accident. You might feel uncomfortable about making a legal claim against a friend, but the medical costs and lost wages you have likely incurred as a result of your injuries can cause financial hardship. Think of your future, and try to avoid economic loss if you choose to file a lawsuit.
You can try to preserve your friendship by letting a drunk driving attorney handle communication with the insurance company. The fact that you chose to get in a vehicle with someone who had been drinking could negatively impact the value of your claim, but you may still receive some compensation to alleviate the economic burden you face.
Will I have to testify in court after a McAllen drunk driving accident?
The majority of accident injury claims settle long before you or your lawyer would need to go in front of a court. Court costs are expensive, so both sides have an incentive to negotiate a settlement so they can avoid the added expense of litigation.
If major disagreements about liability occur, you might have to go to trial. In a drunk driving accident claim, the defense might try to argue their client was not negligent. Yet, this is difficult in drunk driving accident claims. Most settlement negotiations in drunk driving accident claims focus on how much a claim is worth. If the insurance company refuses to compensate you fairly for your accident injuries, you will likely have to testify in court.
How long will it take to get compensation after a McAllen drunk driving accident?
Some McAllen drunk driving accident claims move quickly, but other times, negotiations do not work out, and the case goes to trial. Litigation typically means you will have to wait before you see a resolution.
Some factors that change the time you need to wait for compensation include:
- Severity and nature of injuries. Your attorney will likely try to let you physically recover as much as possible to find out your long-term chances of full recovery. This is so he or she can more accurately assess the impact of your injuries. Severe injuries take more time to heal, which increases the time you would need to wait.
- Disputes over liability. If the drunk driver disputes liability, you will likely have to go to court. The defense may try to shift the blame for the accident to you or another driver. Litigation adds a significant amount of time to the length of a claim.
- Number of people in the drunk driving accident. More drivers and occupants translate to more paperwork, coordinating schedules, and more parties to shift blame. This can make negotiations difficult, and sometimes leads to litigation.
- Witness availability. Eyewitnesses and expert witnesses can play a role in drunk driving accident cases. Taking statements and arranging testimony sometimes takes weeks or months and can increase the amount of time you need to wait to reach a settlement or fight your case out in court.
If the Court Acquitted the DUI/DWI driver do I still have a case?
Yes. Criminal cases are completely separate from civil cases and McAllen drunk driving accident claims. Even if the at-fault driver is found not guilty in a criminal case, he or she can still be found at fault in a civil case. In a criminal case, the prosecutor needs to show that a defendant was guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. However, in a civil case, you only need to establish a defendant’s culpability by a preponderance of the evidence (a lower threshold).
What actions to take after your drunk driving accident?
The first thing you should do following a drunk driving accident is call 911. The responding police officers can determine who needs emergency medical treatment while also investigating the accident scene.Additionally, if it is safe for you to do so, you should try to collect as much evidence from the accident area as possible. Take photos and/or videos of the accident scene, including any visible injuries, the motor vehicles involved, any skid marks on the road or other road hazards, any traffic signs near the accident scene, and the weather conditions.
Documenting the accident immediately after the crash can help you prove your case, especially if any evidence gets lost. If you see any witnesses, also make sure to get their names and contact information. Their statements can provide you with helpful information when trying to establish fault.
Finally, even if you do not think your injuries are significant, you should still get examined by a medical professional. These doctors can verify that you do not have any hidden or undisclosed injuries, while also providing you with the necessary treatment. The doctors will also write down all of the injuries that you’ve sustained in a medical report. This report will be especially helpful if the insurance company decides to argue that you received your injuries from a superseding event rather than from the drunk driving accident.
What damages can I recover after drunk driving accident?
Drunk driving accidents can lead to disastrous results and devastating injuries, such as spinal cord damage, traumatic brain injury, and severe disfigurement. As a victim, you deserve compensation that can provide you with the critical medical care you need. In Texas, you may qualify to receive the following damages:
Economic damages: These are easily quantifiable damages meant to help you recover the out-of-pocket expenses that you’ve incurred due to the accident.
Depending on the specific circumstances of the accident, potential economic damages include:
- Medical expenses and bills (including past and future medical costs)
- Lost wages (including past and future wages)
- Lost earning capacity
- Personal property damages
- Rehabilitative services
- Household services expenses
- Medical devices, such as a wheelchair
- At-home nursing care expenses
- Other out-of-pocket expenses
Non-economic damages: These damages are not easily quantifiable. They are somewhat subjective and more difficult to calculate. They include:
- Pain and suffering
- Mental anguish
- Emotional distress
- Loss of companionship
- Loss of consortium
- Disfigurement or disability
- Loss of enjoyment of life
Punitive damages: Texas law permits courts to award exemplary damages, also known as punitive damages. These damages are only awarded in specific circumstances where a defendant’s actions were so egregious that they warrant additional punishment. These damages are also intended to deter similar actions in the future. Texas law caps these damages at the larger of $200,000 or two times the economic damages amount plus an equal amount of non-economic damages up to a max of $750,000.
Nobody can undo the damage that you suffered as a result of a drunk driving accident. However, with the help of an experienced McAllen drunk driving accident attorney, you can go after compensation to help you move on with your life.
How Much Time Do I Have to File a Claim After a McAllen Drunk Driving Accident?
If you were injured in an accident in Texas, you generally have two years from the accident date to file a claim. However, certain circumstances may shorten or lengthen this time period.Talk to a McAllen drunk driving accident attorney as quickly as possible. An experienced attorney can help you figure out not only if you have a viable claim, but also how much time you have to file.
In general, you should not wait too long to file your McAllen drunk driving accident claim. Over time, memories of the accident can fade, witnesses may no longer be around to testify, and evidence can disappear. All of which, unfortunately, can end up hindering your case and your chance of success.
Drunk driving compensation factors that impact claim
Even though you may qualify for damages following a drunk driving accident, many factors will affect the amount of compensation.These factors include:
- The severity of your injury
- The permanency of your injury
- The expected recovery time
- The disruption to your daily life
- The ability to work
- The magnitude of the medical treatments and rehabilitation
- The invasiveness of the medical treatments
- The long-term pain management needs
- The duration and amount of your suffering
- The vitality before and after the accident
Drunk driving accidents can result in a lengthy legal process. During this time, emotions can run high, and finding peace may prove challenging. That is why you must get the legal help that you need. The Patino Law Firm is here to guide you during this complicated time, answer any questions you may have, and help you fight for justice and compensation.
McAllen Drunk Driving Accidents Statistics
Drunk driving is a major issue across the country. In fact, every day in the United States, another 29 people die due to drunk driving. That is about one person every 50 minutes.
Unfortunately, these deadly statistics don’t end there. Research into drunk driving accidents show that:
- Someone is injured in a drunk driving accident every two minutes.
- Almost 57 percent of fatally injured drivers had alcohol and other drugs in their systems.
- On average, two out of three individuals will be involved in a drunk driving crash in their lifetimes.
In addition, according to the Texas Motor Vehicle Crash Statistics, there were 10,175 drunk driving accidents in Texas in a recent year. Out of those crashes, 160 occurred in McAllen.
Why You Need the Patino Law Firm’s McAllen Drunk Driving Accident Attorneys Fighting on Your Behalf
Drunk driving accident cases are complicated. They typically require extensive evidence to help prove fault and damages and a thorough understanding of the law. Fortunately, the legal team at the Patino Law Firm is no stranger to these types of cases, and our attorneys have the knowledge and experience to take on your drunk driving accident claim.We provide the following services to our clients:
- Confidential consultation: Our legal team can listen closely and provide you with an honest and open assessment of your legal options.
- Investigation: Once retained, we can begin an independent and thorough investigation into your drunk driving accident. Your attorney will gather critical evidence, interview relevant witnesses, and go after all of the responsible parties.
- Deal with the insurance company: Our attorneys can handle all the communications with the defense team and the insurance company. Your case deserves to be treated with fairness and respect. When we handle the negotiation process, we can ensure that we fight for a fair settlement on your behalf or take your case to trial if necessary.
- Consult the experts: Our legal team can bring in experts to help show how the accident occurred and the extent of your damages and injuries. These experts may include accident reconstructionists, medical doctors, economists, engineers, and other field experts.
If you or a family member has been injured in a drunk driving accident in McAllen or anywhere in the Rio Grande Valley, you need an experienced legal team on your side.
Do not wait any longer. Contact the Patino Law Firm today online, or call our office at (956) 255-0023. Let us help you with your McAllen drunk driving accident case. When you contact us, we will listen to the details of your accident and determine your eligibility to file a claim.