Hit by a Drunk Driver: What Determines the Amount of my Settlement?

By Michael GrossmanMarch 19, 2020Reading Time: 5 minutes

Determining Average Drunk Driver Accident Settlements

If you have been injured because of a drunk driver in Texas, you might be wondering how much of a settlement you could be entitled to. While your insurance will likely help compensate you for a portion of your injuries, it is possible that even this won’t be enough. 

Between medical expenses, property repairs, and potential loss of wages due to time spent in recovery, your damages could be extensive. If this is the case, it may be difficult to determine the amount of your settlement on your own. 

The attorneys at the Grossman Law Offices understand that being hit by a drunk driver can be one of the most traumatic experiences you will ever have to endure. More than anything, we want to help guide you towards a successful resolution. Read on to find out what determines the amount of your settlement and how we can help you. 



Is There an “Average” Settlement Amount For Victims Who are Hit by a Drunk Driver? 

The short answer is no. There is no “average” amount that victims of a drunk driving accident will receive. This is because there are often so many facts to consider. 

The amount of your settlement will depend on many factors. These various factors may include the following and many others: 

  • Extent of your injuries; 
  • Length of recovery; 
  • Cost of current and future medical expenses;
  • How long you will need to be away from work; and
  • Existence of emotional trauma caused by the accident.

Because no two incidents are exactly the same, it is extremely difficult to estimate an average settlement amount. However, an experienced attorney who knows what factors exist can help you determine what settlement might be appropriate. 


What Does Texas Criminal Law Consider “Drunk Driving”?

Texas Penal Code Section 49.04 states that a person will be found guilty of drunk driving if they are “intoxicated while operating a motor vehicle in a public space.”

Texas Penal Code Section 49.01(2) defines “intoxicated” as “not having the normal use of mental or physical faculties by reason of the introduction of alcohol, a controlled substance, a drug, a dangerous drug, a combination of two or more of those substances, or any other substance into the body” or “having an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more.” 

In short, a person in Texas can be arrested and charged with Driving While Intoxicated in two scenarios: (1) if their blood alcohol content (BAC) is at a level of .08 or higher, and (2) if their driving is impaired due to the presence of alcohol or drugs, regardless of their BAC.


Will I Have a Stronger Case Because I Was Injured by a Drunk Driver? 

In any car accident where you are not at fault, you could receive some sort of settlement. However, in a drunk driving case, you may have a stronger case than you might have otherwise, which could allow you to receive a larger settlement. This is because Texas is a modified comparative fault state.

In a modified comparative fault state like Texas, if you are more at fault than the other party, you cannot recover from them for your damages. This can be an important rule in a drunk driving case.

If a drunk driver caused the accident, it is easier to prove that you were not at fault, or at the very least, that you were less at fault than the drunk driver. This will make your case stronger and may ultimately lead to a larger settlement. 


What Evidence is Most Critical in a Drunk Driving Injury Case?

The greatest hurdle to overcome is often proving that the driver was intoxicated. Thus, having concrete evidence is critical. Below are some of the most important types of evidence in a drunk driving case:

  • Blood alcohol test,
  • Eye-witness testimony, and
  • Field sobriety test.

As discussed above, a person will be considered “intoxicated” if their BAC is above 0.08. As such, a blood alcohol test is extremely important evidence to have in order to prove that a person was driving while intoxicated. 

However, this is not the only evidence that can help you win your case. Again, even if a person’s BAC was not above 0.08, they might still be liable if their driving was impaired, regardless of BAC. In the absence of a blood alcohol test, or a BAC above 0.08, there are still other ways to help prove your case.

Other types of evidence, including a field sobriety test or even eye-witness testimony, can be crucial in proving your case. Both of these can help prove that the driver operated a motor vehicle while drunk.


Can I Sue the Establishment That Served the Drunk Driver Alcohol? 

In Texas, a certain law allows victims of a drunk driving accident to also pursue a claim against the establishment that served alcohol to the drunk driver. Texas law refers to this as Dram Shop Law. This law provides victims with another important avenue for recovery to make them whole. 

Essentially, Texas dram shop law enables victims to sue alcohol-serving establishments that over-serve alcohol to patrons who later hurt or kill someone in a drunk driving accident. The purpose behind this law is to hold all parties accountable in a drunk driving case.

Although a drunk driver often bears the majority of fault for their actions, the establishment that allowed the driver to become excessively intoxicated is not blameless. A bar, restaurant, or other establishment with a license to serve alcohol has a duty to make sure its patrons do not drink to the point of endangering the lives of others.

Many factors make Texas dram shop law difficult to navigate, but it is important to know that it does exist. An attorney experienced in Texas dram shop law can help determine the full value of your potential settlement. 


What is the Difference Between Criminal and Civil Drunk Driving Cases?

In Texas, a person can face both criminal and civil penalties for drunk driving. It is important to note that civil and criminal liability are separate matters. If the offender did not face criminal charges for drunk driving, a victim can still sue them in a civil case. Even if the driver was charged and subsequently acquitted, they may still be liable for your damages.

In a criminal drunk driving case, the State will seek and provide the punishment. This punishment can include a fine, jail time, or both, depending on the severity of the offense.

The State of Texas does not take drunk driving cases lightly. A first-offense for DWI in Texas can result in a fine of up to $2,000 and 180 days in jail. It could even result in the loss of the offender’s driver’s license for up to a year. 

In a civil case, on the other hand, an individual victim will seek recovery from the drunk driver. The State does not participate in a civil case. If you sustain injuries after being hit by a drunk driver, you can recover directly from the responsible party.

One major distinction is that there is no cap on the dollar amount the driver may owe. Courts will generally allow any amount that is reasonable to compensate the victim. Criminal penalties have a fine cap depending on the number of offenses. A victim in a civil case, however, may seek the full dollar amount that will hopefully make them whole. 


What Are Some Examples of Drunk Driving and Dram Shop Settlements that Grossman Law Offices Have Achieved?