San Antonio Drunk Driving Accident Lawyers

San Antonio Drunk Driving Accident Lawyers

Drunk driving is a hugely vexing and costly issue across the United States, and San Antonio is not exempt. If someone you loved died in a tragic accident that a drunk driver caused, or if a drunk driver injured you, you may pursue compensation to pay for your injuries.

You do not have to go through these difficult times alone. Contact Patino Injury and Accident Attorneys’ San Antonio drunk driving lawyers. For years, we have fought hard to recover the costs of San Antonio drunk driving accidents on behalf of people just like you. Let us see how we can help.

Drunk Driving Accidents in San Antonio

Texas has historically ranked as the number one state in the United States for alcohol-related traffic deaths. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported that Texas had 3,642 fatal motor vehicle crashes in just one year, with 1,439 deaths related to alcohol-impaired driving.

Annually, officers arrest about 90,000 Texas drivers on DUI charges. This number is shocking, primarily because statistical studies have found that the average person drives under the influence more than 80 times before getting into an accident or getting arrested. Pair this with the fact that someone is injured every 2 minutes and killed every 50 minutes on Texas roads because of alcohol-related accidents, and it’s evident just how relevant this issue is for Texas drivers, bikers, and pedestrians.

San Antonio is Texas’s second-largest city, so it naturally follows that it has one of Texas’s highest occurrences of drunk driving accidents. In 2018 alone, San Antonio was the site of over 1,800 drunk driving crashes, resulting in 43 fatalities and 92 serious injuries. The only city with more DUI vehicle accidents is Dallas.

Alcohol-related car crashes in the United States total more than $44 billion in costs annually, with 28 people dying every day from drunk driving collisions, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Children are affected, too. An alcohol-impaired driver was involved in 17 percent of 1,233 traffic deaths among children aged 0 to 14 years in just one year. Of the total number of people involved in a fatal car crash, DUI crashes make up a little over 27.5 percent of those deadly accidents.

These DUI crash statistics are significant because they reflect how prevalent driving under the influence is in our community and its severe impacts on those involved. Understanding the laws related to drunk driving accidents in Texas and the actions to take should you find yourself affected are invaluable to keeping you safe and aware.

San Antonio Drunk Driving FAQs

Texas has taken action in response to these troubling statistics. In 2015, the Texas legislature passed a law including a provision rendering those convicted of drunk driving to be ineligible for a regular driver’s license. These convicted drivers can only receive a provisional driver’s license that requires them to install an ignition interlock system that includes a breathalyzer. This way, their vehicle can only start with the condition that there is no alcohol in their system.

According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), these mandates reduced drunk driving deaths by 30-45 percent in certain states.

To fully understand drunk driving laws in Texas, it’s important to address Texas’s zero-tolerance policy, distinguish between DWI and DUI laws, and discuss a couple of laws that apply to people other than the drunk driver.

Texas has a zero-tolerance policy for alcohol in a driver under the age of 21. This policy means that an underage driver does not need to be legally “impaired” by alcohol—any detectable amount of alcohol is illegal for a person under 21.

DUI stands for “driving under the influence,” and DWI stands for “driving while intoxicated.” Some people use these two terms interchangeably, but they have distinct meanings for applicable charges in Texas. DUIs are reserved only for minors or a person younger than 21. Texas courts can give DWIs to anyone of any age.

Driving under the influence (DUI). Also termed “driving under the influence of alcohol” (DUIA), this charge applies under the Texas Traffic Code and is issued to minors who have any detectable amount of alcohol in their system per Texas’s zero-tolerance policy.

A DUI is a class “C” misdemeanor with a maximum punishment of a $500 fine. Penalties for a DUI include:

  • A fine of up to $500
  • Community service up to 40 hours
  • License suspension up to 60 days
  • Mandatory alcohol awareness classes

Driving while intoxicated (DWI). The Texas Penal Code governs DWIs issued to anyone of any age who has a blood alcohol content (BAC)* of 0.08 or higher or is clearly driving while impaired. The standard first offense DWI is a class “B” misdemeanor.

According to the Texas Penal Code §49.01(2), a person is ‘intoxicated’ if they meet either of the following two conditions:

  1. They do not have the normal use of mental or physical faculties due to alcohol or drugs
  2. They have a BAC of 0.08 or higher

*Technical note: BAC is the medical and legal measure of alcohol, measured either through the bloodstream or breath. Medical and legal standards calculate BAC as milligrams (mg) of alcohol per 100 milliliters (ml) of blood. A BAC of 0.08, for example, means that an individual’s blood supply contains one part of alcohol for every 800 parts of blood.

A DWI is a more severe charge than a DUI, and penalties can range from large fines and driver’s license suspension or revocation to jail time. Additionally, as mentioned above, if a motorist is convicted, they are ineligible to receive a standard driver’s license.

It’s also worth noting that Texas statute defines DWI as “operating” a vehicle while intoxicated. In Texas, though, the term “operate” is broad. Courts have defined it to include any action to “affect the functioning” of a vehicle in a manner that “enables its use.” By this definition, a motorist does not necessarily need to drive their vehicle to acquire a charge for DWI.

Texas “dram shop laws” apply to people who may have been negligent leading up to the drunk driver getting behind the wheel. The driver is almost certainly at fault for any drunk driving accident, but this law holds other negligent parties responsible as well. For example, a bartender who over serves a driver may be liable because they essentially had the opportunity to prevent the driver from becoming intoxicated or leaving the establishment drunk.

Courts consider various factors in determining liability when a drunk driver injures someone. In the bartender scenario, the patron must appear evidently intoxicated, making the seller liable for knowingly continuing to provide them alcohol. Additionally, a friend can face liability as a third-party if, instead of taking the driver’s car keys away, they give their intoxicated friend the keys to let them drive.

Can dram shop liability extend to minors? Sometimes, yes. Depending on the facts of the case, a court may impose dram shop liability on minors.

What is social host liability? Social host liability is different from dram shop laws because it refers specifically to a person who provides alcohol without payment, rather than a business that sells alcohol. In general, though, a social host in Texas is typically not responsible for other adults’ actions when drinking too much alcohol on the host’s premises. This law becomes more applicable for DUI cases involving minors to whom an adult provides alcohol.

The legal alcohol limit for drivers in Texas is 0.08 percent BAC. The legal limit for commercial drivers is 0.04 percent. (This applies to anyone legally classified as a commercial driver, whether operating a commercial vehicle or a personal vehicle.).

Despite the legal limits, drivers can be arrested with lower BAC levels if police officers suspect impairment.

Officers use a variety of field sobriety tests to check for signs of intoxication in drivers. Which test or tests to give is within the officer’s discretion.

DWI task force officers usually perform three tests:

  1. Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN): The officer takes a pen and moves it across a person’s face, having the person follow the pen with their eyes.
  2. Nine-step walk-and-turn: The officer observes the person as they walk heel-to-toe.
  3. One-legged stand: This tests a person’s sense of balance.

If an officer determines a driver is intoxicated, they are arrested and asked to take a breath or blood test.

DWI and DUI accidents can be catastrophic, resulting in severe injuries and fatalities. Drunk drivers might be responsible for compensating their victims and handling recovery costs.

Common injuries from drunk driving accidents include:

  • Back and spinal injuries
  • Traumatic brain injury (TBI)
  • Broken bones
  • Crush injuries
  • Neck injuries
  • Concussions
  • Amputations
  • Head trauma
  • Soft tissue injuries

Convicted DWI drivers can face criminal charges. Others might face legal accountability per dram shop and social host liability laws. DUI and DWI accident victims can often file civil lawsuits under these two laws to seek additional justice and financial compensation. A civil lawsuit (as opposed to a criminal charge) is a way to financially hold someone responsible for your pain, suffering, and economic and other losses.

The most important thing to do after a drunk driving accident is to make sure you’re safe.

Seek medical attention right away. If an ambulance does not take you to the hospital, you still need to get checked by a doctor as soon as possible. Some injuries, even serious ones, don’t have immediate symptoms.

Medical documentation of your injuries can benefit you in a lawsuit. Do not refuse medical assistance due to financial concerns. You can potentially recover these costs if you win your case. Your health and safety always come first.

Yes. You must report every drunk driving accident to the police. Police reports and any charges filed against the drunk driver can be crucial in any subsequent legal action.

Absolutely. Lawyers can help ensure you get fair treatment and justice, especially if you’re considering pursuing a drunk driving accident, wrongful death, or another civil lawsuit. Monetary compensation can provide some sense of relief for you and your family after a drunk driving accident.

A successful drunk driving accident claim can compensate for medical expenses, lost wages, future health care needs, pain and suffering, and more. A wrongful death claim filed by surviving family members coping with their loved one’s death can compensate for the loss of consortium (companionship) and funeral expenses.

The damages you can claim depend on the circumstances of the drunk driving accident and your resulting injuries.

The most commonly claimed damages include:

  • Medical expenses: ambulance rides, emergency department visits, hospitalization, X-rays, surgeries, and more
  • Future medical costs: around-the-clock care for long-term disability, extensive recovery requiring further surgeries
  • Rehab and recovery costs: physical therapy, prosthetic limbs, wheelchairs, walkers
  • Lost wages: to cover time off work after a severe accident
  • Future lost wages: if a severe or permanent injury prohibits you from returning to work
  • Non-economic damages: pain and suffering, loss of consortium, mental anguish, scarring, disfigurement
  • Punitive damages: applies when the drunk driver acts with malice or gross negligence

Never negotiate with an insurance company without a lawyer. After a DWI accident, insurance companies are likely to contact you to dissuade a lawsuit. A lawyer is best equipped to handle communications with insurance companies. These companies may offer you a low settlement to minimize their losses, and they might even try to get you to say or agree to something to devalue your claim.

Sometimes, an insurance agent might even visit a victim in the hospital to offer a settlement when you fear you need the compensation the most. Still, speak to a lawyer before signing any settlement agreement for any settlement amount with an insurance company. A lawyer can help negotiate a fair and just settlement or compensation award in or out of court.

It’s also important not to rush into a settlement until you understand the full extent of your injuries and how they might impact your life. A seemingly minor injury can progress to something more severe, and you’ll want a settlement offer that’s conducive to any lasting harm you might endure. A lawyer can help obtain a proper evaluation and full picture of your injuries to get you the compensation you need to maintain your health and quality of life.

The types of accidents involving drunk drivers in San Antonio include:

Pedestrian Accidents

San Antonio is ranked second in cities with the highest number of pedestrian injuries and fatalities in Texas. Drunk drivers might ignore traffic lights at pedestrian crossings inhibiting a person’s ability to cross the road safely. Drunk drivers can also veer off marked roadways and hit pedestrians using sidewalks or standing at street corners.

When drunk driving accidents involve pedestrians, injuries can be significant because a motor vehicle collides with a human body. Pedestrians injured by drunk drivers can file to receive compensation for medical expenses, long-term disability expenses, and more.

Head-On Collisions

Head-on collisions involving drunk drivers also have a high potential for catastrophic injuries and property damage. Alcohol can impair vision, motor abilities, reaction times, rational thinking, and consciousness, leading to missed traffic signs and possibly driving into oncoming traffic. Head-on collisions are extremely dangerous, and the faster either car is moving, the worse the outcome.

Rear-End Collisions

Rear-end car accidents can vary greatly, so your potential compensation award depends on your case’s specific facts and any resulting harm. Significant factors that can influence your potential claim include damages to your car and any other personal property, your hospital bills, and lost wages due to the length of time you are out of work for your recovery.

Losing a family member is devastating, especially when it’s completely preventable. The amount of compensation you can recover for your loved one’s wrongful death depends on different factors, including their age and the extent of negligence or recklessness by the other driver leading to their death.

Texas Civil Practice & Remedies Code § 71.009 allows a special category of damages—known as “exemplary damages”—to be awarded in situations where your loved one’s death is due to the willful act, omission, or gross negligence of another party.

Wrongful death compensation can include mental anguish endured by the family, including loss of support, loss of consortium (companionship), loss of services, and loss of inheritance.

If an intoxicated driver kills a person in a DUI or DWI accident, the police can charge the drunk driver with intoxication manslaughter, a third-degree felony. Whether a criminal court finds the drunk driver guilty of intoxication manslaughter, the victim’s family can file a wrongful death lawsuit in a civil court for their loss.

Passengers riding with a drunk driver can get injured in a collision and possibly file a civil claim against the driver. Sometimes, passengers may be partially responsible for their own injuries, such as if they knew the driver was intoxicated and still chose to ride in the car.

DWI With a Child Passenger

Texas has severe criminal and civil consequences for DWIs, but additional penalties apply for individuals convicted of a DWI with a passenger under 15. If the intoxicated driver’s actions result in injury to the child passenger, the drunk driver can face child endangerment charges.

A drunk driver who leaves an accident scene can be charged with two crimes: DWI and hit-and-run. Even when alcohol and drugs aren’t involved, a hit-and-run is a serious offense. The significant damage or injury caused by a car accident involving alcohol or drugs followed by fleeing the scene can lead to steep legal ramifications.

The drunk driver is still liable for compensating you, regardless of whether they have car insurance. You can file a lawsuit to obtain a judgment against them. But many people do not have sufficient funds to pay fair compensation, meaning you may not receive the entire payment at once, or you cannot collect compensation at all.

You do have other options, including:

  • Determine if dram shop laws apply to your case.
  • If you have uninsured motorist coverage, you can file a claim with your own insurance company.
  • File a claim under Texas Crime Victims’ Compensation Fund to cover any compensation the drunk driver can’t provide. There’s usually a cap of $50,000 for most claims.

To definitively determine if the driver at fault for your accident was intoxicated at the time of the crash, you can obtain a copy of the police report. When officers respond to car accidents, they may have cause to believe a suspect was drunk. If a driver’s sobriety is in question, they usually request that the suspected drunk driver carry out field sobriety or BAC testing. The tests’ results—or documentation of a driver’s refusal for testing—are included in the police report substantiating your accident.

The statute of limitations is the time frame to file a complaint in court against the person or business that caused your injury. In Texas, you have two years starting from the day of the crash to file a lawsuit for a DWI/DUI case per Tex. Civ. Prac. and Rem. Code § 16.003. This two-year deadline applies to any property damage, drunk driving injury, or wrongful death lawsuit.

Statute of limitations restrictions are generally adhered to, but there are some exceptions. For example, Texas has the “discovery rule” that allows your two years to begin tolling from the date you should have reasonably discovered your injury, rather than the date of the accident, for injuries that aren’t apparent immediately following the car crash.

There is a strict, unmovable deadline of 10 years called the “statute of repose.” A court will nullify any exception to the general two-year statute of limitations if it has been ten years since the incident occurred.

No. You can file a civil suit if you’re injured by a drunk driver, regardless of whether criminal actions against the drunk driver are still pending. Considering you have only two years to file your lawsuit for compensation after a drunk driving accident, it’s best not to wait for criminal charges to finalize.

Drunk driving accidents often involve serious injuries or arrests that make it so victims cannot obtain the other drivers’ identifying information in the immediate aftermath of the wreck. A drunk driving accident attorney can gather all necessary information and evidence to support your claim (the drunk driver’s name, contact information, insurance company, conviction history, history of alcohol- or drug-related issues, etc.).

Yes. If you’re involved in a drunk driving accident, you don’t have to handle these complex legal processes alone—and you need someone with the education and qualifications to get you through them.

Contact a drunk driving accident lawyer now at Patino Injury and Accident Attorneys to learn what legal remedies and compensation you deserve. Call us now at (210) 660-5230.

A court can charge a minor with DWI, which has more significant consequences as outlined above. Generally, for DUI accidents, penalties include:

First Offense for minors under 17:

  • Class C misdemeanor
  • Ordered to complete 20-40 hours of mandatory community service
  • A fine of up to $500
  • Suspension of your license for up to 60 days
  • Mandatory alcohol education class

First Offense for minors 17 to 20:

  • Class B misdemeanor
  • Fine of up to $2,000
  • Ordered to spend 72 hours to 180 days in jail for older minors
  • Suspension of your license for one year

Second Offense

  • Class C misdemeanor
  • Fine of up to $500
  • Ordered to complete 40 to 60 hours of mandatory community service
  • Suspension of your license for 180 days to two years
  • Alcohol education class

Third Offense

  • Classified as Delinquent Conduct by a Minor
  • Fine of up to $500
  • Required to complete 40 to 60 hours of mandatory community services
  • Suspension of your license for 180 days to two years

Penalties for DWI in Texas include:

First Offense:

  • The court can fine you up to $2,000.
  • The court can order you to spend up to 180 days in jail upon conviction with a three-day mandatory minimum.
  • You can lose your driver’s license for up to one year.

Second Offense:

  • The court can fine you up to $4,000.
  • The court can order you to spend one month to one year in jail upon conviction.
  • You can lose your driver’s license for up to two years.

Third Offense:

  • The court can fine you up to $10,000.
  • The court can order you to spend two to ten years in prison upon conviction.
  • You can lose your driver’s license for up to two years.

DWI with a child passenger under 15:

  • The court can charge you with child endangerment.
  • The court can fine you for up to $10,000.
  • You can spend up to two years in prison.
  • You can lose your driver’s license for 180 days.

Many parties involved in drunk driving accidents choose to settle rather than allowing a court to decide their case at trial. That doesn’t mean one option is better than the other. What you choose should depend on the specific facts of your drunk driving accident. If the insurance company is unwilling to offer a reasonable settlement, your attorney can file a civil lawsuit and litigate your case. Contrarily, if you’re offered fair compensation, and you and your lawyer agree on the amount, it’s natural to settle.

Start by negotiating a settlement with the other driver’s insurance company. File a third-party claim against the drunk driver’s car insurance carrier to let them know you seek full compensation for injuries and losses resulting from the accident and see what they offer.

It’s helpful when making your decision to know of prior DUI or DWI convictions against the insured driver. Insurance companies recognize that a lawsuit against someone with a record can be more difficult and costly for them, which may factor into the injury settlement they’re willing to provide.

No matter where you are in the process, speak to a lawyer before agreeing to any offers of compensation.

Contact Our San Antonio Drunk Driving Accident Lawyers Today

For a free case evaluation with one of our compassionate San Antonio Drunk Driving Accident Lawyers, call us today at 855-LAW-NINJA or send us a confidential message through our contact page.

We’ll do our best to help you and your family through this difficult time.

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