One of the scariest things for Houston drivers is knowing that we live in a state where a reportable car accident takes place every minute—in fact, in less than a minute. That means up to 1,440 Texans are in accidents every single day.
Unfortunately, a dive into the accident numbers may startle you even more:
- Every two minutes and three seconds, a person suffers an injury on Texas roadways.
- On average, one person dies every two hours and 26 minutes on our roadways.
- Further review tells us that one cause of these accident fatalities is an impaired driver; 25% of the state’s car accident fatalities occur in accidents that involve an intoxicated driver, which amounts to almost 900 people annually.
Why Houston Drivers Should Understand the Area’s Drunk Driving Numbers
Houston drivers have a lot to worry about in terms of roadway accidents. First off, Houston has some of the most dangerous roads in Texas. What’s even more worrisome is that we have nearly 2,500 accidents annually that occur due to drunk driving. These accidents result in more than 2,000 people sustaining injuries, some of which are severe and life-altering.
According to the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC), tax collections for alcohol consumption in any given month show us that we consume more than 3,000,000 gallons of spirits, nearly 5,000,000 gallons of wine, more than 52 million gallons of beer, and more than 6,000,000 gallons of ale. That is a huge amount of alcohol—even based on a population of nearly 30,000,000 people.
People consume much of this alcohol at home, but unfortunately, as drunk driving statistics show, people consume a fair amount at one of the more than 10,000 restaurants or bars in Houston. This makes impaired driving an inevitable and worrisome result.
Victims of drunk driving accidents often have questions, and they deserve answers. Filing insurance claims can feel like an effort in futility—even when you can prove a drunk driver was at the wheel. This is why it makes sense to immediately contact an attorney with experience and knowledge handling Houston drunk driving accident claims.
You Have Questions, We Have Answers
One of the biggest challenges DUI accident victims encounter is not knowing their legal rights or what to do following a drunk driving accident. Some questions have simple answers, which we will address here.
Common questions we hear from our personal injury clients include:
- What should I do after a drunk driving accident? – Contact the police, seek medical attention, report the accident to the proper insurance company, and contact an accident injury attorney.
- Should I do anything at the scene of the accident? – If you can physically do so, take photographs of the scene, including the damage to any vehicles involved and your injuries. You should also obtain the name, contact information, insurance information, and license information of all drivers. You should also gather witness names and their contact information, if relevant.
- How should I handle the insurance company? – Provide the insurer with your name, address, and telephone number. Do not provide a recorded statement. Do not attempt to assign blame to the other driver, but do not apologize either. Do not answer any questions until after you speak with an attorney and fully understand your rights.
These are the basics that every driver should know in the event of an accident. You should also make sure that you know when the law enforcement officer will file the accident report and obtain a copy as quickly as possible.
Some questions that require more information about your accident include:
- How long will it take to settle my claim?
- How much should my claim settle for?
- What should I do about medical bills?
Every case is unique, but a Houston car accident attorney can answer these questions for you with a free consultation. Call now; we’re ready to hear your story.
Liability and Drunk Driving Accidents in Houston
In Texas, the Texas Alcohol and Beverage Code includes Dram Shop Laws. These laws prohibit a bartender or a restaurant server from providing alcohol to a clearly intoxicated patron.
To prove that a bartender or server is partly responsible, a plaintiff must establish that the restaurant worker should have foreseen that the person they served was too drunk to drive.
Some of the signs that someone may have had too much alcohol include:
- Slurred speech
- Bloodshot eyes
- Unsteadiness when attempting to walk or stand
- The smell of alcohol on the patron’s breath
The server or bartender must have known that any average person could not safely operate a car following such consumption. Next, the injured party must prove that the drunk driver caused the injuries. This might constitute the easiest part of filing a claim under dram shop laws.
Texas does not require bars or restaurants to carry insurance to cover them for accidents caused by over-serving. It’s difficult to prove liability under Dram Shop Laws, which is even more reason to have an experienced attorney working on your behalf.
Texas Auto Insurance and Drunk Driving Claims
One of the biggest concerns for an injured victim is how to handle insurance claims following a Houston drunk driving accident. The extent of your injuries can vary depending on the circumstances of your accident, but you may be subjected to the limits of the at-fault party’s insurance policy.
All drivers must carry liability insurance. In Texas, minimum insurance coverage is known as 30/60/25 coverage and includes:
- $30,000 for injuries per person
- $60,000 for injuries per accident
- $25,000 for property damage
This level of coverage may not fully compensate you for your medical bills after a serious accident. Medical treatment will vary based on your injuries. This coverage may prove sufficient if you have minor injuries—assuming the insurance company pays your claim But if your injuries are serious or traumatic, the process often proves far more complicated.
Serious Injuries Following a Houston Drunk Driving Accident
Houston has some of the highest speed limits in the United States, at 70 to 75 miles per hour on freeways. What is so terrifying about this is that most drivers travel 80 or 85 miles per hour with no fear of having a speeding ticket issued for such behavior.
Put a person behind the wheel who is already acting irrationally by driving intoxicated, combine that with speeds of 85 miles per hour, and you have a recipe for disaster. A minor accident is far less likely; in fact, a devastating accident is more likely.
There are other issues as well according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) including:
- Reaction time – Drivers who are impaired likely have a diminished ability to react to what is happening around them.
- Visual changes – Inebriated drivers may have blurry vision and are less likely to identify changing light colors.
- Inability to judge distance – This could result in a driver rear-ending a driver in front of them.
All these factors increase the likelihood of an accident occurring. When an impaired driver is involved, a car accident victim could suffer more serious injuries.
Some of the injuries that can occur in any type of car accident and that can be exacerbated in drunk driving accidents include:
- Soft tissue injuries – These can occur anywhere on the body, including the head and neck. Whiplash, bruises in the ribcage resulting from seat belt pressure, and other soft tissue injuries could take weeks or months to heal. Other soft tissue injuries may leave victims with chronic pain.
- Broken bones – A drunk driving vehicle crash can break bones. The mangled mess of metal can also cause penetrating injuries, which can expose bones and result in infections that can lead to worse outcomes.
- Head injuries – Traumatic brain injuries (TBI) result from a bump, jolt, or blow to the head or body. TBIs can prove life-altering, and victims may never recover fully from these injuries. Even a moderately serious accident can result in a TBI.
These are only some of the injuries you could suffer in a Houston drunk driving accident. You may also be one of the hundreds of family members who lost a loved one on a Houston roadway due to a drunk driver. In this event, you may be eligible to file a wrongful death suit against the at-fault driver. We can help you through this stressful process.
Protect Your Rights Following a Houston Drunk Driving Accident
Unless you are a lawyer or have extensive knowledge of Texas’s legal system, drunk driving laws, and insurance regulations, the last thing you want to do is attempt to resolve your claim on your own. You may think you know the best way to deal with an insurance company, but rest assured, this process is deliberately difficult and requires experience.
Insurers want you to think that they are there to protect you, but the reality is much different. Insurers have an obligation to make money for their shareholders. This means that insurance companies collect as much as possible in premiums and avoid paying claims whenever possible. If a claim requires payment, they will work hard to pay as little as possible. It’s how they stay in business and collect millions and billions in annual profit.
You may get lulled into a false sense of complacency when the insurance adjuster appears to be sympathetic toward you because of your injuries. However, the fact is, insurance companies are often just digging for information that can help them reduce the amount you’re ultimately paid. Some ways an insurance company can pay less include:
- Assigning fault – Insurers will find ways to blame others for their customer’s bad behavior, including assigning fault to another party. This could be you—even though you are the injured party, the bartender who served the driver, another driver on the road, or another party.
- Downplaying injuries – The adjuster may also attempt to downplay the severity of your injuries. For example, if you suffered a back injury due to a Houston drunk driving accident, the at-fault insurance company may try to prove that you had a prior back injury, meaning you were already suffering.
- Fast, low settlement offer – This is an interesting tactic some insurers use. They will make you a settlement offer shortly after your accident. The sooner they make the offer, the more likely it is the offer will be low. The settlement may not even come close to covering your medical bills, let alone any other losses.
Make no mistake: none of these tricky tactics should come as a surprise. All insurance companies train their adjusters to diminish your claim. Insurers will probably suggest that you submit all of your medical expenses to them for payment. Do not do this without consulting with a lawyer! Without legal representation, the insurer may reimburse you for your medical bills but not the full amount you’re owed! Instead, the insurer may reimburse you at what it considers usual and customary charges, which will probably amount to less than your actual out-of-pocket costs.
One last thing to keep in mind—if an insurance company mails you a check, in the tiny print on the back where you sign your name, they’ve probably placed a waiver. That fine print says that by cashing or depositing the check, you agree the amount is a settlement, and you will not hold the insurance company liable for any future claims! Thus, you waive your right to receive any additional compensation down the road if your injuries worsen or your bills escalate. Don’t fall for this trap!
Contact a Houston Drunk Driving Accident Attorney
If you’ve been hit by a Houston drunk driver, you deserve full and fair compensation, and we will fight to make sure you receive it. Our acclaimed firm has a team of drunk driving accident attorneys who know how to fight back against insurers and win cases, so you can feel confident you can recover the most compensation possible for your injuries.