In 2019, Texas recorded 3,615 fatalities caused by alcohol-impaired driving. That number came down to 963 in 2020, perhaps because of the pandemic. Harris County, in the city of Houston, has the highest alcohol-related crash fatalities.
Those statistics are alarming and should make you take notice. Ending up in a car accident because of the other person’s negligence can wreck your life, both physically and mentally. The immediate effects are devastating, as it causes immense trauma.
That is why it is essential to hire a Houston Personal Injury Lawyer to handle your case and ensure you receive fair compensation. Nevertheless, it would also be helpful to know some facts about drinking and driving laws in Houston, Texas.
What is the BAC in Texas?
In legal terms, BAC refers to the blood alcohol concentration. It is a way of measuring the amount of alcohol present in a person’s bloodstream. The more a person drinks, the greater the BAC. All DUI or driving under the influence laws use it as an indicator to determine a person’s intoxication level. The reason is that alcohol impairs a person’s ability to react and make correct decisions.
In Texas and Houston, a BAC of 0.08% will mean that a person is legally intoxicated. Therefore, engaging in activities like driving becomes a criminal activity automatically. However, suppose a person has regular use of their mental and physical faculties. In that case, they can still be convicted of DUI even if their alcohol concentration level is lower than the permissible limit.
It is also essential to know that Texas has a no-drop law. It states that anybody under 21 years of age should not have even a minute amount of alcohol in their system while driving. If they do, it would be considered a breach of the law.
Penalties for drunk driving
Just like any other state in the USA, Texas has its penalties for drunk driving. It varies on whether it is a person’s first, second, or third offense. Those factors will influence the jail sentence, loss of driving license, and amount of fine imposed.
For first-time offenders, the jail time is three days minimum and 180 days maximum. A fine of 2,000 USD$ is also set. The driving license will be confiscated for a year. If someone is dead in the accident, then the drunk person would be charged with intoxicated manslaughter. The police will register the case as a second-degree felony with up to 20 years of imprisonment.
Drunk driving with children under 15 years of age is a severe offense. The offender could be fined up to 2,000 USD$ and face a jail sentence of two years.
Dram Shop Act
Texas also has something called a Dram Shop Act. Under the act, bars and restaurants will be held responsible for the accident in some instances. For instance, if a person is already intoxicated, the bar may be held liable for serving them more alcohol. Or, the bar could be held liable for serving alcohol to a minor, who then got involved in an accident.
Security footage and witnesses are used to determine whether the person was intoxicated beforehand in such cases.
Comparative fault law
The law of comparative negligence/fault applies in Houston and Texas. It states that you will also be held partially responsible along with the driver if they can prove your negligence.
This also means that the person found to be most at fault for the accident or the injury will not be entitled to any compensation. Moreover, even if you have sustained damages as a result of the accident, your compensation amount may decrease based on your share of the fault.
This is a key reason to hire a Houston personal injury lawyer, as they will know how to argue on your behalf and prove that the other party was mostly at fault, thus increasing your chances of getting fair compensation.
How can a lawyer help?
You will need an attorney after a drunk and drive accident in Houston for various reasons. They will investigate the crash site, review police and medical records, work with accident reconstructionists and DUI specialists, and negotiate with the drunk driver and their insurance company.
They will also help you sue the drunk driver and get adequate compensation. That would include lost wages, medical treatment costs, reduced earning capacity, property damage, and emotional suffering. Your attorney will also talk with the insurance companies to ensure that they don’t reduce your recovery amount or delay the settlement in any way.
You will also require their assistance to file a Dram Shop lawsuit to prove that the bar was responsible for causing the accident. They will also file an uninsured or underinsured motorist claim on your behalf. It is a type of insurance that provides you extra coverage when you are injured in a DUI accident, and the driver doesn’t have enough insurance to cover your damages.
You will need a Houston Personal Injury Lawyerto gather the details, negotiate, prove your case and ensure you receive the benefits of the law. However, knowing these basic facts related to drunk and driving accidents in Texas will also help you significantly.