Can I Sue a Drunk Driver That Hit Me?
Drunk drivers cause injuries and deaths every night in the Houston area.
Some folks believe that if they are injured in an accident caused by a drunk driver that they cannot bring a lawsuit for their damages.
This is not true!
Even if the drunk driver is arrested and is prosecuted for the crime, you are still entitled to bring a civil lawsuit claim for injuries and expenses.
As a specialist in Personal Injury Trial Law, car accident lawyer Michael P. Fleming can answer any questions regarding suing a drunk driver.
Contact Michael now for a free, no-obligation consultation.
What Damages Can we Sue the Drunk Driver for?
In Texas the damages in an accident case involving a drunk driver include those for any personal injury case including:
- Pain and suffering
- Mental anguish
- Medical expenses
- Lost wages and
- Other expenses.
In addition, because drunk driving is such a problem and causing a drunk driving accident injury amounts to intoxication assault, the law in Texas also allows a victim to seek punitive damages against the drunk – these are damages over and above the actual damages used to punish the perpetrator.
What if the Drunk Driver left Before Police Arrived at the Accident Scene?
This is not uncommon. We have had many clients who were injured by a drunk driver in an accident who left the crash scene before Houston police arrived. Some actually flee the scene while others exchange information and then leave before police arrive. The fact that the drunk was not arrested does not mean that the injured party cannot file a drunk driving accident lawsuit and prove that they were, in fact, drunk. Proving that the other driver was intoxicated can be done through eyewitness testimony regarding the smell of alcohol, actions of the drunk, admissions of the drunk and other evidence. Taking a video of the drunk after the accident can be powerful evidence to show that they were intoxicated. Fleeing the scene itself can be seen as evidence of guilt.
What if the Drunk Driver is Arrested but Later Found Not Guilty?
People that are acquitted (found not guilty) of crimes are often still subject to liability in a civil court. A famous example is that of OJ Simpson who was found not guilty of killing his wife and friend in the criminal court but was later found liable for killing them in a civil court and ordered to pay many millions of dollars. It is the same in a drunk driving or DWI case – a drunk driver causing an accident in Houston or other city can be arrested and later found not guilty in criminal court but still be sued and found liable in a civil court. This is because there are different standards in finding guilt/liability in criminal and civil cases. Of course, in criminal cases, a defendant must be found guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt” while in civil cases, a defendant only needs to be found liable by a “preponderance of the evidence” which means simply, more likely than not. When a drunk driver is sued for damages, even though they committed a crime, it is a civil lawsuit and the preponderance of the evidence standard applies. So, even if the drunk driver gets a good criminal defense lawyer and beats the charges, you can still sue them for damages in court. Civil lawsuits are brought in the district courts – in Harris County they are in Houston.