Fatal Drunk Driving Accidents
Was a Loved One Recently Killed in a Drunk Driving Accident?
Typically when you think of drinking and driving, the first thing that comes to mind is the legal hazards that you will encounter if caught. The number of people in society with DUIs & DWIs is staggering, and it seems to be multiplying annually even with the stricter enforcement of these laws by peace officers. Surprisingly, people seem to forget that while a DUI is a hassle and can be career-threatening, even worse is when drinking and driving leads to a fatal accident, whether that be the intoxicated driver, passenger, or people in another vehicle.
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There are a number of negative repercussions that stem from fatal drunk driving accidents, and if a fatal drunk driving accident has affected you or a loved one, you may seek legal recourse. This article will discuss generally what relief is available if you have been victimized in a fatal drunk driving accident.
What Theories of Recovery are Available After a Fatal Drunk Driving Accident?
The first step to attaining maximum compensation for your loss is to figure out who it is that you can sue and what legal mechanism can be used to make sure what you recover for the damages is in accordance with the loss that you have incurred. Below are a few ways in which you may take your claim in the aftermath of a fatal drunk driving accident.
The wrongful death cause of action is available to those who have lost a loved one because of the intentional wrongful or negligent act of another. Under this theory of recovery, you are able to receive compensation for the emotional and financial losses that you have incurred as a result of your family member passing away. If successful, you may be compensated for your past losses, as well as any you are currently suffering and those that you will potentially suffer in the future because of the death of your loved one. In short, you are filing a lawsuit for how you were hurt by the victim's death. One example of how someone might suffer extremely negative repercussions because of a fatal drunk driving accident is that of a husband and wife. If you were not the primary breadwinner or did not maintain a dual income household, and you lose your spouse by the negligent act of a drunk driver, then you will be forced to enter the workforce and your life will be forever drastically altered through no fault of your own. It is these very circumstances that trigger a wrongful death lawsuit to put you in as good of a position as you would have been financially had that person not been behind the wheel and recklessly affected so many other peoples' lives through his/her actions.
Dram Shop Liability
The most logical assumption about filing a lawsuit for a fatal drunk driving accident is that the offending driver ought to be sued. However, you may not be able to be sufficiently compensated for your loss in a recovery against that person. As such, Texas offers you another avenue of relief by way of a dram shop action. The Texas Dram Shop Act permits you to file a lawsuit against the restaurant, bar, hotel or whatever establishment was responsible for serving liquor to the intoxicated person who then later on operated a vehicle and injured another person.
The Texas Dram Shop Liability Act is two-fold, and each element must be established in order to impose liability on an establishment under its provisions.
The applicable provision of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Code that is pertinent to Dram Shop Liability is section 2.02(b), which states the following:
Providing, selling, or serving an alcoholic beverage may be made the basis of a statutory cause of action under this chapter upon proof that:
- At the time the provision occurred, it was apparent to the provider that the individual was obviously intoxicated to the extent the he presented a clear danger to himself and others; and
- The intoxication of the recipient of the alcoholic beverage was a proximate cause of the damages suffered.
Therefore it appears that there are both objective and subjective components to the Texas Dram Shop Act that must be proved in order to establish liability in this type of action. It must be apparent subjectively that the individual was intoxicated and a danger to himself and others and then objectively that this persons' intoxication was the proximate cause of the damages that were suffered by you.
Is Dram Shop Liability Difficult to Establish?
In recent years, there has been a movement towards reinterpreting dram shop actions by the Supreme Court. A landmark case that created the possibility for dram shop causes of actions was in 1987 with the Texas Supreme Court's decision in the El Chico v. Poole case. In that case the Supreme Court held that there existed a duty to not serve alcohol to parties in an establishment if they know or should have reason to know that they are already sufficiently intoxicated.
With the creation of Section 2.02 (quoted above) the Texas legislature imposed the requirement that there be proof of 'obvious intoxication' and that the intoxicated person presented a 'clear danger' which is an uphill battle for you as the Plaintiff.
There have been a number of different decisions recently that have helped shield establishments by using proportionate fault principles. Put simply, there are some decisions that illustrate an attempt by the courts to prevent parties from holding establishments liable under the dram shop act for certain actions by the intoxicated party that were out of their control.
In conclusion, when evaluating what legal recourse you have based on a fatality due to an intoxicated driver, there are a number of hurdles that you must jump through and complex legal elements that must be met to ensure that you receive the maximum recovery possible. The attorneys at Grossman Law Offices are both familiar with these types of cases and have the necessary experience to help you get what you deserve. To discuss the particulars of your case, contact us at 1-855-326-0000.
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