The Repetitive Nature of Driving Under the Influence

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This article is part of a series on driving under the influence (DUI) which highlights numerous reasons why our firm almost always sues the drunk driver.  This article focuses on some of my experiences suing drunk drivers and how I came to join Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD).  What I’ve learned through these experiences is that the vast majority of drunk drivers drive under the influence on a regular basis.   Over time, this means that a person who is arrested for DUI or causes a wreck when drunk has most likely driven under the influence hundreds or even thousands of times before they got caught.

Years ago, after suing a few drunk drivers, I sued a drunk driver who hit our client and it was the drunk driver’s second offense.  He had been convicted of DUI some years before in my county.  I knew that all the criminal judges in my county sentenced every drunk driver who was convicted of DUI in the same fashion, and the sentence included an order to attend a short seminar called the Victim Impact Panel. Most judges in Texas and Oklahoma order drunk drivers to attend a Victim Impact Panel in their county.  The Victim Impact Panel (VIP) is a presentation which is organized by Mothers Against Drunk Driving. MADD recruits a victim who has either been seriously injured by a drunk driver or had a family member killed by a drunk driver to tell everyone convicted of DUI or DWI about the victim’s injuries or loss.

Although I had not attended the VIP in my county, I knew there was most likely a tragic story that was told to everyone convicted of DUI.  I knew the drunk driver who I was suing heard that story because he was sentenced to attend the VIP after his first offense. Even though he heard that story, he chose to drive under the influence again.  I wanted to know what the drunk driver heard at the VIP so I could force him to admit that he knew all the dangers associated with driving under the influence but chose to do it again.

The next Saturday I went to the VIP to hear the presentation and it was excellent.  Ron Barton is the victim who puts on the VIP in my area and his story is very compelling.  His daughter and her grandmother were horribly killed by a drunk driver. I prepared for the seminar by reading MADD materials which discuss the costs of DUI in terms of criminal fines and fees.  I knew those types of fines and fees are really small compared to some of the civil jury verdicts rendered against drunk drivers.  After the seminar, I spoke to Ron and he invited me to join MADD and speak at the next VIP about the civil liability associated with drunk driving.  I’ve been speaking monthly at that seminar ever since.

When reading MADD’s materials there was one statistic that jumped off the page.  The statistic had to do with how many times the average drunk driver drives under the influence before they get arrested the first time.  According to MADD, the average drunk driver drives under the influence 80 times before they get arrested.  I found this number hard to believe for a few reasons.  I couldn’t understand how MADD came to the conclusion.  What data were they relying upon to conclude the average number of times a person drove drunk?  I also found the stat hard to believe because the number was so high.  How can someone drive drunk 80 times?

At the next VIP, I put the question to the panel of attendants.  How many times did they think the average drunk driver drives under the influence before they get arrested the first time?  A middle-aged lady raised her hand and said, “Hundreds.” I asked her to tell me about her answer and she responded honestly, telling the group she had been drinking wine on a regular basis since high school and had driven under the influence hundreds of times and never got caught until she was in her forties.

I’ve continued to ask that question at every VIP over the years and the panel members always give me the same response.  The number is usually greater than one hundred and lower than one thousand.  The VIP attendants (who all recently got caught driving under the influence) are telling me on a consistent basis that the MADD statistic is valid.  But how did MADD get the stat?

The answer is that the stat is derived from the CDC (the Center for Disease Control and Prevention).  The CDC conducts a systematic study of drunk driving because it accounts for a significant percentage of traffic wrecks, injuries, and fatalities.  In 2013, for instance, over 10,000 people died in traffic wrecks where one of the driver’s blood alcohol content exceeded .08 g/dl (this BAC defines drunk driving per se in many jurisdictions). As part of their study, the CDC conducts large-scale random phone surveys asking people across the US how many times in the last thirty days they have driven when they were impaired by alcohol.  From this data, the CDC can estimate the number of times drunk driving occurs across the population.  The number is shockingly high.  In 2015, the CDC estimated that over 121 million episodes of DUI occurred.  Every year the CDC conducts a phone poll and comes to a similar conclusion.  MADD bases its stat on this research.

The CDC survey and the honest answers from the VIP attendants caused me to change my mind about the MADD stat.  Not only do I believe the stat, I think it’s low.  There is a substantial group of people in any given community that drive under the influence frequently.  People in this group have driven under the influence on a regular basis for years, most likely weekly or several days a week.  They are fortunate to have never been pulled over or hit someone or something, and so they believe that they can drive drunk and make it to their destination.  They have driven under the influence so many times that they believe driving under the influence is permissible.    If you have been hit by a drunk driver, you can rest assured this isn’t the first time the person drove under the influence.

 

About the Author

Christopher Rehmet is the lead litigator at Tate Rehmet Law Office and has been practicing the area of personal injury for twenty years. Prior to practicing as a civil litigator, he was a prosecuting attorney in a District Attorney’s office.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do Trucks and SUVs Provide a Safer Commute for Your Family?

Countless Texas drivers are concerned with their own safety, as well as the safety of their friends and family riding in the backseat. As such, many drivers often choose to purchase larger, heavier automobiles, such as trucks and SUVs, assuming that these vehicles will offer the most protection in the event of an accident.

 

Unfortunately, in doing so, these drivers may actually be putting themselves and their loved ones in harm’s way. In fact, studies have shown that, depending on the circumstances, bigger doesn’t always mean better in terms of occupant safety on public roads.

 

What Makes an SUV or Truck Unsafe?

 

Do Trucks And Suvs Provide A Safer Commute For Your FamilyIf an SUV or pickup truck is far larger than the average passenger car, what could make it an unsafe option for a Texas family? For one, because trucks and SUVs have a higher center of gravity, the vehicles are placed at a higher risk of being involved in a rollover crash. As evidence to such, in the year 2000, SUVs had the highest rollover involvement rate of any vehicle type in fatal crashes, according to a PBS Frontline report.

 

Furthermore, because SUVs and pickup trucks can carry a much larger amount of passengers than regular cars, more lives are put at risk during a wreck, especially in a single-car, rollover accident.

 

SUVs and Trucks May Have Advantages in Accidents Involving Multiple Cars

 

Conversely, SUVs and trucks do seem to have an advantage over other, smaller cars in accidents that involve multiple vehicles. Specifically, a 2013 study from the University of Buffalo reports that drivers of smaller cars were 10 times more likely to be fatally injured in a crash with an SUV if the latter had a higher crash rating. Still, drivers of passenger cars were found to be four times more likely to die even if the SUV’s crash rating was lower. Here, data shows that drivers and passengers riding in an SUV will find more protection in wrecks involving smaller cars, regardless of the crash ratings of either.

 

Which Car Should You Choose?

 

In light of this, it is in the best interest of all Texas drivers to consider a variety of factors before purchasing a new family car. Buyers should examine crash ratings, but should not place the entire decision on this factor. Drivers looking to buy a car should look at crash reports and weight distribution of the truck or SUV. Most importantly, perhaps, buyers should take note of rollover crash statistics for each model they consider, as SUVs, trucks, and any higher vehicles, examining the vehicle’s center of gravity, are at a much higher risk of being involved in single-car, rollover wrecks.

 

Unfortunately, Accidents Do Happen

 

The brutal truth is that no matter how hard Texans work to keep our roads safe, accidents still occur. At Tate Rehmet Law Office, P.C., we believe in the power of the law, as well as our ability to help injured parties recover compensation after an accident on the roads. Don’t hesitate to contact one of our Sherman car accident attorneys for help filing an accident claim or personal injury lawsuit. Reach out to us for a free case review by calling 903-892-4440.

Personal Injury Protection Insurance in Texas – What You Need to Know

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Personal Injury Protection Insurance In Texas – What You Need To KnowTexas, along with numerous others states, examines “fault” in a car accident when determining who is financially responsible. More specifically, according to the Texas Department of Insurance, “Texas law requires people who drive in Texas to pay for the accidents they cause.” In practice, drivers not at fault in a car wreck in Texas may file a claim with the liable party’s insurance company in order to recover compensation.

 

Additionally, although not legally required, many drivers opt to purchase personal injury protection (PIP) within an insurance policy, also commonly referred to as personal insurance protection. Many purchasing insurance are unaware of personal injury protection or do not fully understand it due to the ambiguity in most plans. While there are numerous variants of personal injury protection there are prototypical aspects across plans and providers for which we’d like to prepare you for as you review your personal injury protection options.

 

What is PIP?

 

Personal injury protection is a type of car insurance available to drivers throughout the state. Under Texas law, insurers must offer applicants $2,500 in PIP insurance, although drivers may choose to purchase a greater amount. Insured drivers may choose to reject this offer, but must make this request in writing.

 

How does PIP factor into a car accident claim? PIP insurance covers both medical bills up to the monetary amount purchased, as well as 80 percent of lost wages and the cost associated with hiring a caregiver for an injured victim.

 

In addition to covering the insured party, PIP insurance will also provide coverage for his or her family members and any passengers in the car, regardless of who was liable for the accident.

 

How PIP Works in Practice

 

To understand how PIP insurance works in practice, consider an example involving a Texas man who is struck by another driver. Here, the other driver is determined to be at fault, so the Texas man files a claim with the other driver’s insurance company to recover damages associated with medical bills and lost income. If the other driver has adequate PIP insurance, the Texas man will be fully compensated for the damages caused. Additionally, even though the other driver was at fault, he or she can still recover through his or her own PIP coverage, according to Texas law. Both parties in this scenario are compensated for damages including personal injury.

 

What if PIP Doesn’t Cover All Damages?

 

If, however, the other driver’s PIP insurance does not cover all damages associated with the accident, the Texas man, described in this example as the victim, retains the right to file a personal injury lawsuit in order to recover adequate compensation. In this scenario, the Texas man would attempt to sue the at-fault driver, a process that often requires the assistance of an attorney with skill and experience.

 

Even in cases where the at-fault driver carries adequate personal injury protection it is not uncommon for an insurance company to offer the victim a claim that does not fully compensate for damages. It is important for the victim to know their rights under Texas law and seek consulting with a personal injury attorney to help maximize damage recovery.

 

Can We Help You with Your Car Accident Claim?

 

Whether you plan on filing a car accident claim in Texas, or hope to initiate a personal injury lawsuit in order to recover due compensation, make sure to do so with the help of a legal professional. The Sherman car accident attorneys at Tate Rehmet Law Office, P.C. can provide you with a comprehensive overview of the PIP system, and will work aggressively on your behalf. Reach out to us for a free case review by calling 903-892-4440.

 

“Insurance” image “Insurance” Chris Potter, CC-BY-2.0.

Picking the Right Sherman, Texas Accident Lawyer

Picking The Right Sherman, Texas Accident LawyerIt is vital to have representation on your side if you hope to recover compensation after a car accident in north Texas. After all, an attorney’s sole job is to advocate on your behalf in order to help you win payment for any damages you incurred in a wreck.

 

That being said, it’s important to understand that not every attorney may fit your needs, and performing some initial research may help you secure the right legal professional for your case. The following provides specific factors that may help you pick the right Sherman accident attorney to represent you in your claim:

 

Look for Experience and Personal Injury Focus

 

Above all, in the realm of car accident claims and litigation, experience is paramount. An experienced attorney is the only one who will know what to expect when dealing with insurance adjusters, or how long litigation may take, should the need arise. When discussing your claim with an attorney, inquire about the attorney’s experience in the realm of accidents and personal injury.

 

Furthermore, it is equally important that you secure the services of an attorney who largely focuses on accidents and other personal injury claims. Just as you wouldn’t want anyone but a bankruptcy attorney dealing with your creditors, your accident case is best managed by someone who focuses strictly on personal injury.

 

Consider the Location

 

Of course, while it helps to have representation from an attorney who is experienced in the field of accidents and personal injury, you should also consider the location of the attorney before making any final decisions. Should the case proceed to litigation, your interests will be best served by a legal professional who has spent time practicing within courts in Sherman, which serve all of Grayson County. An intimate knowledge of the court system in which your case will be heard can be invaluable.

 

Watch Out for Individual Attention and Knowledge of the Law

 

Once you have found an attorney with experience in personal injury within Sherman or the rest of Grayson County, it is imperative that you take into account two other factors: the individual attention your case will receive, as well as your attorney’s knowledge of the law.

 

In regards to the former, your case should be handled by an attorney with whom you can discuss your concerns, and not by a random associate who gets passed your file. Pick an attorney that has a manageable caseload, and that will dedicate significant time to help guarantee a positive outcome.

 

Additionally, while you may not be able to test an attorney’s in-depth knowledge of the law, you can use word-of-mouth and other referrals to find a professional who understands the specifics of accident claims. Because there are often specific deadlines within which a claim must be filed, as well as other time-sensitive issues, it is in your best interests to hire an attorney who can confidently help you through each step of the process.

 

Be a Part of the Process

 

As a final note, understand that even though you hire an attorney, you may still be able to help in the process. By playing an active role in your case, you will be able to volunteer information, which may otherwise not be possible to uncover.

 

We are confident that our gifted group of Sherman, Texas accident lawyers will fit the needs of your case and exceed your expectations. If you’ve been injured in an accident, we encourage you to contact us today for a free initial consultation.

Lake Texoma- A Look at Accident Numbers

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Located within the USACE Tulsa district of Texas and parts of Oklahoma, and formed by the Denison Dam on the Red River, Lake Texoma is one of the most popular lakes in the entirety of the United States. Each year, the massive lake and the lake’s surrounding areas welcome approximately six million visitors for hiking, camping, golfing, sailing, windsurfing, water skiing, jet skiing, power boating, fishing, and more. While the majority of visitors to Lake Texoma enjoy their days in the sun harm-free, others become the victims of dangerous, and often deadly, accidents.

 

Types of Accidents In and Around Lake Texoma

 

Lake Texoma- A Look At Accident NumbersLike any body of water in the world, Lake Texoma presents a risk of water-related injuries, namely drowning, for those who swim and play in its waters. In 2012 alone, there were four fatalities caused by drowning in Lake Texoma, although a July, 2013 story published by KXII News 12 reports that there are an average of five deaths by drowning each year in the lake. Other common accidents include boating accidents and other watercraft accidents, such as jetski accidents, diving accidents, tubing accidents, accidents caused by the participation in water sports, as well as car accidents and pedestrian accidents around the lake. In fact, a July of 2014 article also published by KXII News 12, reported, quoting police, that there were more than ten pedestrian accidents on Texoma roads already recorded for that year. In January of 2014, a man was killed when a semi truck struck him on Highway 75 in Sherman, and an 18 year old was killed a month later after being stuck by a vehicle on the same highway. The popularity of Lake Texoma leads to further burdening of the roads surrounding the lake.

 

Staying Safe While at the Lake

 

The increase in accidents resulting in serious injuries and deaths in the past five years has caused public officials and police to encourage visitors to the lake to take extra safety precautions. Officials are asking pedestrians to avoid walking along the roadways near Lake Texoma, and to always walk toward traffic while wearing bright, reflective clothing if walking is a must. Additionally, both pedestrians and drivers should take extra caution, especially at night. For lake activities, it’s important to never participate in boat racing, and to make sure that all children under the age of 13 wear a life vest at all times, as is required by law. Additionally, anyone who is not an experienced swimmer or who is participating in a water sport should also wear a life vest. Furthermore, exercising caution by observing what’s happening around you, maintaining a proper speed limit, and following water safety laws are all crucial to safety while at Lake Texoma.

 

Before heading to the lake this summer, make sure to have a conversation with friends and family about safe behavior while boating and playing at Lake Texoma. By exercising safety precautions, you may be able to save the life of yourself, a family member, or even a stranger.

 

If you’ve been involved in an accident on or around Lake Texoma and feel that another party is at fault, contact Tate Rehmet Law Office today by calling 903-892-4440 for a free case review.