What is intoxication manslaughter?
Drunks driving in Houston cause numerous deaths every year. Intoxication manslaughter occurs when an individual, by reason of their intoxication, causes the wrongful death of another person. This usually occurs when a drunk driver causes a car accident.
Intoxication is commonly thought of as being from liquor but it can be from alcohol, prescription drugs or marijuana as well. In Texas, it is a third degree felony if the death occurs as a result of the defendant operating a motor vehicle, aircraft or boat while intoxicated. Intoxication manslaughter in a DWI accident is not only a common occurrence in Houston and throughout Texas but it results in felony charges in almost every case.
Can the victim’s family sue for intoxication manslaughter?
When the death of a person is caused by a drunk driver, whether or not they are charged with intoxication manslaughter, the victim’s family can bring a wrongful death lawsuit seeking damages for their loss. To prove that the drunk is guilty of intoxication manslaughter, it is not necessary to show that they intended to kill their victim. It is only necessary to show that they drove while intoxicated and that the intoxication caused the death by accident or mistake.
What if the victim was negligent?
It is important to understand that an intoxication manslaughter can occur in a car accident circumstance even if the victim was negligent as well. For instance, if a sober victim in Houston pulls in front of a speeding drunk driver and is hit and killed. The drunk driver can still be charged with intoxication manslaughter if it can be shown that a sober driver would not have been speeding and would have been capable of stopping without hitting the victim.
Can we seek punitive damages?
In the context of a DUI wrongful death case, facts proving that the death resulted from an intoxicated driver can be important to prove intoxication manslaughter even if formal criminal charges have not been brought. This is important because while Texas has limits on the amount of punitive damages that can be sought in a personal injury case, those limits to not apply to cases where the injury was the result of intoxication manslaughter. Therefore, a jury in Houston or any place in our state is free, within constitutional guidelines, to award any sum to the surviving family as punitive damages to punish the drunk driver and send a message to deter others from driving drunk.
If you have a loved one who was killed by a drunk driver you need a highly qualified car accident lawyer. Call Houston Board-Certified Injury Specialist Michael P. Fleming for a free no-obligation consultation.