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Austin Personal Injury Blog

Friday, November 24, 2017

How Do I Recover Monetary Compensation from a Drunk Driver in Texas?

If you’ve been hit by a drunk driver, the police and district attorney will take care of prosecuting him or her criminally.  And while that’s a necessary step, the fines the driver pays generally go to the State of Texas, so it’s not very helpful to accident victims who have had injuries and setbacks as a result of the collision.  To address those issues, the injured driver needs to seek justice in the civil courts. This is where having a drunk driving accidents attorney on your side can help.

How can I sue a drunk driver?

Civil suits against drunk drivers are typically filed as “tort” cases.  In tort cases, there are four elements to prove:

  1. the other person owed you a duty;
  2. the other person “breached” or violated that duty;
  3. you were injured or sustained other damages; and
  4. your damages were caused by the other person’s breach of his or her duty.

In drunk driving cases, it’s easy to prove that the other driver owed you a duty, specifically the duty to drive sober—after all, that’s the law.  It’s also not difficult to prove that the other person breached that duty.  Evidence usually includes police reports and breathalyzer or blood test results, as well as his or her criminal conviction.  That means the critical pieces of your case are proving that the accident caused you damages.

What kinds of damages can I prove?

Damages in civil cases usually get divided into two categories: economic damages and noneconomic damages.  Economic damages tend to be easier to prove, and include all of the direct financial costs of the accident.  Noneconomic damages are the effects of the accident that didn’t necessarily cause a monetary loss, but that still have a recognizable legal value.

What are some examples of economic damages?

The easiest type of economic damages to prove are expenses you’ve already had because you will have a receipt for them.  This includes medical costs for services such as being transported to the hospital and having your injuries treated, the fees for having your car repaired and renting a replacement vehicle in the meantime, and the replacement costs for any property that was destroyed in the collision.  In addition to past expenditures, you can also recover lost earnings for time you were not able to work as a result of the accident.

You can also recover economic damages for future expenses that are proven to be reasonable and necessary, such as the costs of ongoing medical care.  Similarly, you can recover for future earnings that you would have been able to make, but now will not because of the accident.  For example, suppose a dancer from the Texas Ballet Theater was injured and unable to dance for months or years; by proving what she would have earned dancing during those years, she will be able to recover economic damages for lost earnings.

What are some examples of noneconomic damages?

Noneconomic damages are harder to prove not because it’s difficult to establish that the damage occurred, but because the damage that was caused didn’t have a direct monetary cost.  Since the American justice system tends to solve problems by transferring money from offenders to victims, noneconomic damages present a problem.  The most commonly cited example of noneconomic damages is “pain and suffering.”  If you’ve been hit by a drunk driver, you may spend months or years in pain while receiving treatment and therapy, all through no fault of your own.  Certainly justice demands that this be addressed, but determining how much it is worth in monetary terms can be difficult.  Other examples of noneconomic damages include being left with permanent scarring or physical impairments, being unable to enjoy activities you were formerly able to enjoy, and in terrible cases the loss of loved ones.

If you’ve been hit by a drunk driver, navigating the court system to seek justice can be complicated.  You should have the guidance of an experienced attorney.  Our firm has been representing clients in personal injury cases for years, and our attorneys have helped hundreds of clients obtain judgments and settlements to help repair the damage to their lives.  If you need to speak with an attorney about your rights after an accident, schedule a consult with a Texas personal injury lawyer to determine liability and fight for your rights.

 


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