Being involved in a car accident is a very stressful situation, and the aftermath can be just as challenging. There are repair bills to be paid, insurance companies to deal with, and maybe even injuries to recover from. And it’s certain to be even more frustrating when the other driver involved in the accident was drunk.
We understand how upset you must be.
Did you know, though, that even if the other driver was acting wildly irresponsibly by getting behind the wheel while they were intoxicated, you may still be found at least partially at fault in the accident? And your level of fault might impact the compensation you’re entitled to? It’s true, and it all has to do with a concept in Texas law called comparative negligence.
What exactly is comparative negligence, though? And will it play a factor in your accident case? Will you need to hire a lawyer? How much will that cost? We’ll explain everything here, but first, let’s get some context on drunk driving accidents.
How Are Drunk Driving Accidents Different From Other Car Wrecks?
Alcohol lowers inhibitions and impairs judgment, which is why the state of Texas takes a hard stance against driving while under the influence. If a driver’s blood alcohol content is .08% or above, that person is considered legally impaired by the state; however, they are breaking the law as soon as the alcohol affects their ability to drive even if they are determined to be under the limit.
If a driver is impaired and they are involved in an accident, things can get very complicated very quickly. There are more legal issues to contend with, and the consequences will no doubt be more severe. First-time drunk drivers face fines of up to $2,000, and they could be sentenced to up to 180 days in jail and lose their license for up to a year.
Despite these severe penalties, drunk driving incidents happen with startling frequency. In 2021, nearly a quarter of all traffic accident fatalities in Texas were tied to drunk driving, and there were 25,261 accidents where alcohol was a factor. As big of a problem as it is, you’d think an intoxicated person would always be at fault when an accident occurs, right?
How Does Comparative Negligence Factor Into Drunk Driving Accidents in Texas?
You might think that if the other driver was drunk, regardless of the circumstances, they would be fully responsible for the accident. Not so in the state of Texas. The state has adopted what’s called “comparative negligence,” meaning that fault is determined in terms of percentage. If you’re determined to be 40% at fault for an accident, you’ll only be able to collect 60% of the possible compensation. If you’re 30% at fault, you could get 70%. If it’s 20%, 80%. And so on. So while this all makes sense in theory, what does it look like in real life?
Comparative Negligence in Action
Let’s say you’re driving down the road and you take your hands off the wheel to grab your phone from your bag. You’re looking down for just a second, and you don’t notice the red light you just ran. You slam into a driver making a left across your path, and both cars are totaled.
When the officers arrive on the scene, they determine the other driver to be way over the legal limit. Yes, they were driving drunk, but did they cause the accident?
This is where comparative negligence comes into play. If you’re found to be over 51% responsible for the crash, you will not be able to collect compensation regardless of whether or not the other driver was drunk at the time. That’s why determining fault is absolutely critical in any accident case in Texas — particularly ones where alcohol is involved. While the justice system tends to favor the sober driver, it’s never black and white.
But this is easier said than done. The legal system is tremendously complicated, so it’s a good idea to have an experienced drunk driving lawyer on your side.
How Pastrana & García Injury Law Can Help
At Pastrana & Garcia Injury Law, we’re well versed in all manner of car accidents, including drunk driving incidents where comparative negligence is at play. We understand how complicated these cases can become, and we have decades of experience untangling the legal complexities surrounding them.
If you’ve been hurt in an accident where alcohol was a factor and you’re considering your legal options, contact us online today or call 512-474-4487. We serve all of Central Texas including Pflugerville, Round Rock, Manor, and Bastrop.
We know you have questions about your accident. Let us help you get the answers you need and the justice you deserve. Consultations are always free, and you won’t pay anything unless we win.