Iowa Park Officers were dispatched to the 2100 block of Southwest Parkway in response to a crash involving a motorcycle and an F150 pickup which occurred on October 23, 2022, at approximately 4:05 p.m. The crash report states that Laramie Reid (33) was riding a motorcycle in the westbound center lane of the 2100 block of Southwest Pkwy. A Ford F150 driven by Vickie Jordan (67), was in the east left turn lane at the 2200 block of Southwest Pkwy. Ms. Jordan attempted a left turn onto Taft Blvd on a yellow flashing light. She struck Mr. Reid as he entered the intersection. Mr. Reid was pronounced deceased at the scene.
The crash report seems to place fault on both the operators of the truck and the motorcycle – the truck for turning when unsafe and not yielding the right of way and the motorcycle for traveling too fast. However, the underlying basis for these conclusions are not stated in the report. Eyewitnesses need to be interviewed and calculations need to be made by an accident reconstructionist in order to determine the exact facts of this wreck. It is noteworthy that the driver of the truck has on obligation to turn only when safe to do so. If the road view is blocked by construction barrels the driver needs to ease out and not complete the turn until she has a clear view of any vehicle coming towards her. After an initial investigation an injury law firm can determine if an accident reconstruction should take place.
A major crash in Van Alstyne has left multiple people injured and at least one person trapped in a vehicle. Grayson County Scanner reported the crash happened November 7, 2022 at approximately 2:14 p.m and stated that Tom Bean Fire, Whitewright EMS, and Whitewright Fire all responded. KXII reported that State Troopers said a truck driven by 44-year-old Corey Crawford was traveling westbound on FM 121 when a pickup truck driven by 27-year-old Cody Parks heading eastbound crossed the centerline and struck the truck driven by Crawford. Six people were injured and transported to the hospital, one by air ambulance. We don’t have complete information about injuries, but we know at this time that Crawford and his passengers Amanda Crawford and an unidentified 16-year-old were transported to Texoma Medical Center. Parks was flown to Medical City Plano. His passengers, an unidentified 8-year-old and 1-year-old, were transported to Medical City McKinney. Troopers said this is an ongoing investigation.
Fortunately, multiple agencies were called to respond to this accident and it seems the injured people received relatively quick medical treatment. Regarding the facts, the interviews of witnesses and photos of the scene, measurements are all important to determine which vehicle crossed the centerline. When possible witnesses are also the injured victims, there can be a delay in obtaining these statements – however, they are very important. Regardless of preliminary reports of fault, further interviews of the occupants and any third party witnesses can determine who is responsible for this wreck. There could also be issues of multiple claimants all trying to recover from one insurance policy so investigation of secondary and supplemental policies must be done. The process can be complicated and the assistance of a lawyer experienced in this type of incident can greatly help your case.
Allen Police were dispatched to a two-vehicle collision at the intersection of Alma Drive and W. Rainforest Lane in Allen, TX. The crash happened on October 26, 2022, at approximately 5:27 p.m. According to the crash report, a green Jeep SUV driven by Connor Pyle (17) was approaching a stop sign at the intersection of Rainforest Lane and Alma Drive. A silver Toyota Camry driven by Vincent Bounphouansy (49) was traveling northbound on Alma Drive and approaching the intersection. The driver of the Jeep failed to yield right-of-way at the stop sign and entered the roadway causing the collision. Mr. Bounphouansy reported being injured but was not transported to a hospital. No other injuries were reported at the scene of the crash.
It is not uncommon to feel pain following a crash, but not seek immediate medical attention. The shock of the collision can increase adrenaline, dulling our sense of pain. Sometimes, the injured party isn’t fully aware of the injury until inflammation has set in. When this happens, it is critical to seek medical attention right away. It is never a good idea to delay treatment for both medical and legal reasons. Medically it can lead to long-term complications and legally it gives the insurance adjuster the argument that the wreck did not cause your injuries or the delay in treatment caused the injuries to be worse. If you think you are injured in a collision get a medical evaluation right away. Also, you would likely benefit from legal assistance to avoid the pitfalls of making a legal claim on the insurance policy of the at fault driver.
According to the Texas Crash Report, an eleven-year-old female was injured when a vehicle attempting a left turn from a parking lot pulled in front of another vehicle. At approximately 4:45 p.m. on October 13, 2022, Sherman PD responded to the 2300 block of Texoma Parkway. The report indicates that a white Dodge Ram was attempting to exit the Big Lots parking lot to travel north on Texoma Parkway when they pulled out in front of a white Chevy Equinox. An eleven-year-old passenger in the Equinox suffered serious injuries and was transported to a local hospital.
Based on the crash report this appears to be a case of failure to yield the right of way – sometimes abbreviated as FTYROW by police officers. Based on the speed limit of Texoma Parkway, the driver of the Chevy Equinox would have had a difficult time avoiding the Dodge Ram which appears to be at fault for the accident. Further, the higher allowed speed will also cause more serious injuries for the occupants, such as the eleven-year-old girl. Back, neck, head, shoulder, and knee injuries frequently occur in this type of wreck and it is very important to be medically treated by an orthopedic doctor and sometimes a neurologist. It is best not to talk to any insurance adjuster until after you have spoken with your own lawyer because many cases have been lost when incorrect answers were provided in the insurance interview. Also, if you are able to take photographs of your vehicle and your injuries they are important pieces of evidence.
According to the Texas Crash Report, a driver was injured when another driver failed-to-yield right-of-way while making a left turn. It happened on October 20, 2022, in Murphy, TX at the 100 block of E FM 544. A gray Honda Accord traveling westbound at the 200 block of E FM 544 began a left turn to head south at the 100 block of Hawthorne Drive. While making this turn, the Honda, driven by 23-year-old Raahn Jackson, struck a Silver Ford Focus driven by Donna Carriglio-Nachman who was traveling eastbound at the 100 block E FM 544.
Making a left turn can be a dangerous maneuver. The Texas Department of Transportation reports that in 2021, there were 6,733 crashes reported Failed-to-Yield Right-of-Way Turning Left as a contributing factor. Of those 6, 733 crashes, 56 were fatalities, 322 involved serious injuries, and 915 involved minor injuries. This crash, like the majority of similar incidents, hopefully involved non-serious injuries. While there may not always be a way to avoid this type of crash, driver attention and preparing to take proper evasive measures is important. Most people think of a Driver Safety Course, also known as Defensive Driving, as something you do to help keep a traffic ticket off your record. But did you know that most insurance companies give a discount for drivers who take the course? That’s right, they discount the premium of your insurance policy because they know that keeping safety at the forefront of driver’s minds keeps their customers safer and reduces claims against their policies. If you haven’t considered taking a driver’s safety course, it’s quick, easy, and most insurance companies give you a premium discount. A win, win for everyone and it might prevent an accident and injuries.
William Wynn Bailey has been charged with DWI after his involvement in a crash on SH 205 that seriously injured five people, including Samuel Nunn. The Texas Peace Officer’s Crash Report states that at 5:56 p.m. on September 20, 2022, four vehicles were involved in a collision on SH 205 and County Road 746 in Collin County. According to the report, a white Hyundai driven by William Wynn Bailey (54) was traveling southbound on State Highway 205 when it traveled into the southbound lane and struck a red GMC pickup truck driven by Samuel Nunn (38). The red pickup was struck by a black Ford pickup truck driven by Jonathan Rodriguez (33), that was traveling behind it. An F-350 that was pulling a trailer was traveling behind the Hyundai. The driver, Cesar Sanchez (58), swerved to avoid the collision and rolled over into the ditch west of SH 205. Five people were seriously injured in this crash; all were transported to local hospitals. Mr. Bailey was charged with DWI. According to the report, his BAC was .226 and this was his second DWI charge. His case is pending in Collin County and according to court records, an interlock device was required.
This was a horrific crash that resulted in five people receiving serious injuries that likely altered their lives. When I see crashes like this, I often wonder what, if anything, could have been done to avoid this collision. Unfortunately, this may be one of those times where mitigating the damage was the best one could hope for. The site of the crash appears to be a two-lane rural road with a shoulder on each side. Depending on several factors such as speed, following distance, and traffic, few options may have existed for the drivers to take evasive maneuvers. Based on the crash report, it appears that Mr. Nunn did try and move out of the way of the wrong-way driver but he was unable to fully complete the action and was struck in the rear-passenger corner of the vehicle. Mr. Sanchez appears to have avoided the collision, but the vehicle rolled over after swerving. Even though people were hurt, it was very fortunate that everyone survived this crash.
Traveling at a safe distance, staying alert, and driving the speed limit are all ways to keep safe while driving. Doing all these things helps to reduce your risk but does not guarantee your safety, especially when intoxicated drivers are on the road. Most people don’t think of drunk driving as something that happens at 5 p.m. during rush hour traffic. Though bars are open during the day, the drunk drivers we see at this time who are repeat offenders are often drinking something they picked up on their own. Drunk driving crashes have increased, and the disturbing trend includes more daytime drunk driving than ever before. Since drunk driving can happen any time of day, the best way to stay safe is to keep more distance between you and other drivers (create space) and to always keep alert and know your options to avoid accidents.
On October 14, 2022, Van Alstyne police responded to a two-vehicle crash on the US 75 service road just north of Jim Jones Road. A Hyundai Elantra driven by Gurinderpal Singh Sooch (32), was traveling south in the northbound lane when he struck a black BMW driven by Samuel Petelski (19). Both drivers reported that they swerved toward each other before the crash. A witness to the crash confirmed that both vehicles were traveling in the northbound lane. The officer’s report indicates that a contributing factor in the crash was Mr. Sooch traveling in the wrong lane of travel. Mr. Petelski sustained injuries in the crash and was transported to a local hospital. Mr. Sooch refused medical treatment at that time.
Two-way frontage roads are becoming a thing of the past and I for one, am glad to see the change. This roadway design was more common between 1950-1970’s and was seen more often in rural communities without the high urban population density. According to Hernan Rozemberg, a Public Information Officer with TxDOT, Texas experienced a lot more growth by 1990 and head-on crashes on frontage roads increased considerably. To improve safety and keep up with needed reforms, Texas began to change the design of frontage roads to a one-way system. Rozemberg says this not only improves safety but reduces congestion. Unfortunately, this has not yet come to rural areas like Van Alstyne and Howe where we are beginning to see more traffic on the roads from the population growth of nearby communities. While we don’t really know what led to the driver being in the wrong lane of travel, we know that whatever the reason, it would have been considerably less likely had the frontage road been one-way. It is difficult to anticipate what evasive action, if any, will be taken by another driver. Sometimes, you have to make a last minute maneuver to avoid a collision. Though he tried, the injured driver was unable to avoid this collision.
According to KXII, Keith Duane Early of Gainesville, was struck and killed by a driver who failed to yield the right of way while making a left turn. Mr. Early was traveling north on FM-901 when a pickup, driven by Cherian Charles of Allen, TX, attempted a left turn onto the eastbound Frontage Road of US-82. Mr. Early was flown to Medical Center of Plano where he succumbed to his injuries. Charles and the 3-year-old passenger were not injured.
Whether the vehicle you drive is a car, truck, or SUV, you must take particular care to watch for those on bikes and ensure you are not distracted or speeding while driving. Motorcyclists are much more difficult to see on the roadway merely because of the smaller size. Being extra cautious can reduce the number of crashes involving a vehicle and a motorcycle. Statistics prove that motorcycle riders are more likely to be involved in a fatal accident, but there are several measures that can be taken to improve safety during the ride. Even though we cannot control the actions of others, knowing what leads to crashes and avoiding those behaviors will go a long way in helping to prevent an accident.
Too often passenger vehicle drivers make a decision to turn and end up taking the life of a motorcycle rider that was likely never even noticed. Taking extra precaution whether you are driving a car, truck or motorcycle may prevent the loss of life or injuries.
According to crash reports, authorities have identified a man, Johnny Ray Cole, was killed by a hit-and-run driver while cycling down East Taylor in Sherman, TX. It happened on September 22, 2022 near the 500 block of East Taylor Street. Just before 7pm, officers received a call from a passerby who discovered the body of Mr. Cole. The report indicates that Mr. Cole was traveling east in the westbound lane when he was struck by a driver traveling west in the westbound lane. Evidence suggests that the mirror of the vehicle struck the cyclist on the front of the head, face, and shoulder. The driver of the vehicle has not been identified and authorities ask that anyone with information contact Officer Bigham at the Sherman PD – 903-892-7290.
Crashes involving a pedestrian or bicycle can be particularly serious and, in many cases, fatal. These types of crashes seem to have increased in recent years. I wonder if it is because more people are walking or taking their bike or perhaps, because drivers are more distracted than ever causing them to weave and swerve. Regardless of the cause, TDOT reports that in 2021, 7,631 crashes involved cyclists and pedestrians who were injured in the crash – 2,265 being cyclists and the remaining 5,366 pedestrians. This month alone, I have personally read about 5 local crashes involving an injured pedestrian or cyclist.
We cannot anticipate the actions of other drivers, but we can take steps on our end to make sure our actions do not contribute to a collision with a motor vehicle. The below summary of tips was compiled in part by the Texas Department of Insurance and is a helpful guide to get you on the road to safer travel whether by foot or cycle.
Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Tips
Stay Alert – Watch for traffic and avoid distractions.
Plan Your Route – Select routes that allow you to cross traffic with signals and try to avoid dangerous intersections and roadways. Avoid walking along or in a roadway when an adjacent sidewalk is available and always use a crosswalk when it’s available.
Safe Lane Changes – Plan Ahead, Scan, Signal, Act, Improvise
Obey Traffic Safety Rules – The Texas Transportation Code has rules established for pedestrians and cyclists. These rules encompass everything from safety equipment to right-of-way. Familiarize and practice these rules for improved safety.
Always Expect the Unexpected and Move with Traffic.
According to USNews, around 11:45 p.m. on October 11, 2022, Dallas Police radio traffic recorded officers trying to stop a wrong-way driver headed south in the northbound lanes of Spur 408. At the same time, Dallas Police Officer Jacob Arellano was traveling the same stretch of road headed in to work his next shift. Officers were unsuccessful at their attempts to stop the wrong-way driver. Reports indicate that the 30-year-old female driver crashed her sedan head-on into Officer Arellano’s SUV. The impact forced his vehicle into another lane of travel where it was struck by a semi. The impact from the collision caused the SUV to roll several times before coming to rest on the shoulder of the road. Fellow officers responded to the crash. He was transported to Methodist Hospital before succumbing to his injuries. A procession from the hospital to the Medical Examiner’s office was held in his honor. He leaves behind an 8-month-old son. The wrong-way driver whose name has not been released, is hospitalized with serious injuries. Officers believe she was intoxicated at the time of the crash. Formal charges have not been brought against her but Intoxication Manslaughter is expected.
As shocking as this crash seems, it is becoming an all-too-common subject in the news. Within approximately 48 hours, Dallas police responded to two drunk driving fatalities. One took the life of this officer and another the life of an 8-year-old boy. Both were young and had their whole life ahead of them. What a senseless act. We don’t have details about the drunk driver involved in this crash. According to the CDC, the average drunk driver has driven drunk 80 times before getting caught. 80 times! Many of these drivers go on to receive multiple convictions before their recklessness claims the life of someone. Meanwhile, a person has lost their life and a family and friends are grieving. This is no doubt a difficult time for everyone involved and the process of dealing with an investigation and claim is often far from their minds. There is no doubt in my mind that a thorough investigation will be performed in this crash. It seems clear who is at-fault in this crash but there may be another responsible party, the establishment who provided the alcohol to the drunk driver. Texas has what is referred to as the Dram Shop Act which allows victims and their families the ability to sue a bar, restaurant, store, or other alcohol provider for their loss if they sold alcohol to an obviously intoxicated person. If an establishment is involved and liable, there may be additional policies available for recovery and hitting the alcohol providers in their wallet may be the only way to deter drunk driving. This process can be time consuming and difficult to navigate so hiring an experienced third-party for their expertise and support can make all the difference.
Jessie Gutierrez, 20, was killed in a single vehicle accident in Cooke County, Texas. The accident happened on July 3, 2022, around 3:15 a.m., a few miles south of Gainesville. According to troopers, Gutierrez was driving a 2001 Chevrolet Tahoe northbound on FM 372. According to reports, he was driving at an unsafe speed and when the road curved, he overcorrected and left the road. At that point, the vehicle began to roll, and Gutierrez was ejected. Meador Funeral Home transported him to the Dallas County Medical Examiner’s Office after officials arrived on the scene. His blood had a BAC of 0.185 when tested.
Every time I hear a heartbreaking story about a young life cut short, I wonder what could have been done differently to prevent it from happening. This is a tragedy that should never have occurred because the victim was discovered intoxicated. I’m curious where the driver was drinking prior to the accident. Was it in a bar or a restaurant? Was he celebrating the holiday with a night out? Did he drink at a party or at someone’s house? Why does this matter? In Texas, victims and their families have the right to sue bad bars and alcohol providers if they sell to an obviously intoxicated person who then injures or kills themselves or another person. Suing a third-party for their role in the death of a loved one can provide much-needed financial relief to help pay for the victim’s family’s crash-related expenses such as medical bills and funeral costs. It can also help them move forward with the knowledge that their claim may be the catalyst that prevents a bad alcohol provider from committing future acts that may cause harm to others. To be successful, evidence must be collected and preserved before it vanishes. It can be difficult to focus on that task while grieving a loss, so having an experienced third-party who understands the process involved is often a first step for many families. They can assist families in navigating the legal system and providing support so that they can concentrate on what is most important.
An 8-year-old boy is dead and a 31-year-old is behind bars for his involvement in a drunk driving crash that happened on October 10, 2022 at 3600 Dilido Road. Around 7 p.m., Dallas Police were dispatched to an accident involving a child struck by a vehicle. According to a neighbor who witnessed the situation, the parents performed CPR on their son, Kaden Rainwater, until emergency personnel arrived. He was transported to a Dallas area hospital where he died from his injuries. The driver remained at the scene after the crash and had a child in the vehicle with him. Officers suspected the driver was intoxicated and arrested him on DWI related offenses. Court records indicate that Miguel Martinez has three prior DWI convictions and has now been charged with Murder, DWI with 2 or more prior convictions, and DWI with a child under 15. He is being held in the Dallas County Jail on a $600,000 bond. A memorial service will be held for Kaden this weekend and a GoFundMe campaign has been created to help the family pay for funeral expenses.
Each time I hear a heart wrenching story of a young child killed by a drunk driver, I wonder why the system has failed. This is a crime that should never have happened because this driver reportedly had three prior DWI convictions and never should have been trusted on Texas roads again. I can’t help but wonder where the driver was drinking prior to the accident. Was it out at a bar or restaurant? Did he stop on the way home and buy alcohol that he drank while driving? Did he drink it at an event or someone’s home? We don’t yet know where the driver purchased or acquired the alcohol. Why does this matter? Well, in Texas, victims and their families can sue bad bars and alcohol providers when they sell to an obviously intoxicated person who then goes on to injure or kill themself or another person. For a victim’s family, suing a third-party party for their role in the death of a loved one can provide much needed financial relief to help pay for their expenses related to the crash. It can also help them to move forward knowing their claim may be the catalyst that stops a bad alcohol provider from committing future acts that could harm others. To be successful, evidence needs to be obtained and preserved before it disappears. Sometimes it can be difficult to focus on that task while grieving a loss so getting an experienced third-party involved who knows the process is often a first step for many families. They can help families deal with the legal process so that they can focus on what is most important.
The most recent vehicle versus bicycle crash in Sherman appears to be another hit and run. It happened on October 10th and occurred in the 3600 block of North Travis Street. The Grayson County Scanner reports that the vehicle was last seen turning west onto the 82 service road, but no vehicle description has been provided. Identification of those involved and details regarding injuries was not immediately available.
Recent reports indicate that it is the second hit-and-run crash involving a bicycle in just over a week. In the previous case that happened on October 2nd in the 1300 block of South First Street, police were able to detain a person involved. Several other hit-and-runs involving pedestrians have occurred in this area during the same period of time.
When people flee the scene of an accident, it appears to indicate they are aware of their liability in the crash. I tend to believe that it is frequently associated with their awareness of a crime having been committed or the involvement of drugs or alcohol. A thorough investigation needs to be performed to first find the individual responsible for this crash and to ensure evidence is collected and preserved for both civil and criminal use. Investigators should consider all scenarios to determine what, if any, evidence exists. In this case, I would hope cell phone data and a possible toxicology testing would be required if it appears the driver may have been intoxicated at the time of the crash. The problem in a hit-and-run is that many times, the police are unable to locate the victim in time to collect a timely specimen to check for drugs or alcohol. This is unfortunate because many hit-and-run cases involve a driver fleeing because they know that they are intoxicated. It is difficult for a victim to stay involved in such a critical part of a case when they are injured. Having a third-party involved can help ensure a proper investigation is conducted and evidence is gathered and preserved. Our attorneys offer a free, no-obligation evaluation of your case. The phone lines are answered 24 hours a day so they can get you the help and support you need at such a difficult time.
If you have any information pertaining to this case and the driver or vehicle involved, please contact the Sherman Police Department at 903-892-7280.
This article is the third in a series of articles discussing why the injury lawyers at Tate Rehmet Law Office typically file a lawsuit against drunk drivers when we represent someone who a drunk driver has injured. This article explains that our lawyers allege both negligence and gross negligence in the lawsuit against the drunk driver. Drunk driving fits well within the definitions of negligence and gross negligence under Texas and Oklahoma law and it is advantageous to allege both causes of actions.
Most people are generally familiar with the idea of negligence and understand that it means someone was unreasonably careless and caused damage to another person. Under Texas law, negligence is a cause of action which has a particular definition. A cause of action is legal jargon meaning proper legal grounds that will support a lawsuit. Negligence is defined as follows:
“Negligence” means failure to use ordinary care, that is, failing to do that which a person of ordinary prudence would have done under the same or similar circumstances or doing that which a person of ordinary prudence would not have done under the same or similar circumstances.
“Ordinary care” means that degree of care that would be used by a person of ordinary prudence under the same or similar circumstances.
Ordinarily careful people don’t drive under the influence because they know DUI is a major cause of wrecks, injury, and death on our Texas and Oklahoma roadways. DUI fits nicely within the Texas definition of negligence. If a jury finds that a drunk driver is negligent, then they can proceed to assess damages for personal injuries. These include things such as past and future medical bills, past and future pain and mental anguish, and loss of income, among others.
In addition to negligence, we also allege that the drunk driver is grossly negligent. Most people understand that gross negligence means the defendant was reckless in their actions and another person was damaged as a result. Under Texas law gross negligence is defined as follows:
“Gross negligence” means an act or omission by the defendant,
which when viewed objectively from the standpoint of the defendant at the time of its occurrence involves an extreme degree of risk, considering the probability and magnitude of the potential harm to others; and
of which the defendant has actual, subjective awareness of the risk involved, but nevertheless proceeds with conscious indifference to the rights, safety, or welfare of others.
DUI fits nicely into Texas’ and Oklahoma’s definition of gross negligence. DUI carries a risk of serious injury and death to others. The dangers of DUI are widely known and accepted to be true and it is easy to conclude that the drunk driver knew of the dangers at the time, but proceeded with indifference to everyone else on the roadway. Driving while intoxicated is gross negligence.
Several advantages follow the gross negligence allegation. The first advantage is that gross negligence opens up an additional element of damage called punitive damages. Punitive means to punish, and when someone is grossly negligent a jury can assess an amount of money in the verdict to punish the reckless behavior of the defendant. Punitive damages are sometimes called exemplary damages and they are only available if a defendant is shown to be grossly negligent.
The gross negligence allegation can place the defense attorney, the defendant, and the insurance company in an awkward position. The insurance company may take the position that their policy doesn’t cover punitive damages. In that case, the defendant’s attorney has to tell the defendant his own insurance company might not cover all the damages. This can throw a wrench into the relationship and motivate a higher settlement valuation.
For drunk driving injury cases, a jury can award two types of damages to the victim of the drunk driver: economic damages and non-economic damages. These damages apply to cases involving both negligence and gross negligence and are called compensatory damages. Juries can also award additional punitive damages for gross negligence. Punitive damages are generally based on the amount determined for economic damages and non-economic damages.
Compensatory Damages Include Economic and Non-Economic Damages:
Past and future medical expenses
Bills from doctors and other medical services
Prescription medicines and medical equipment
Physical therapy or rehabilitation
Cost of making home accessible for related disablement
Cost of travel to and from hospital appointments
Lost income, lost future earning potential, lost opportunities
Rental car expenses
Vehicle repair or replacement
Suffering, Pain, and Discomfort
Depression, anxiety, and mental disorders
Loss of enjoyment
Disfigurement and scars
Loss of Consortium (sexual relations) or companionship
Punitive damages are meant to deter bad conduct in the future. These damages are only available in cases where there is gross negligence. The amount set for punitive damages awarded may be subject to limitations set by both statutes and constitutional law. There are some exceptions to the statutes, however, which remove the limits on punitive damages for drunk drivers who cause their victims a serious injury.
The drunk driving accident attorneys at Tate Rehmet Law Offices represent victims of drunk drivers, and our personal injury law firm has over three decades of experience in handling injury cases throughout Texas and Oklahoma. We serve North Texas, South Oklahoma (Texoma), including McKinney, Dallas, Sherman, Durant, Gainesville, Bonham, Pottsboro, Ardmore, Denison, Marietta. If you’ve been injured by a drunk driver or know someone who has, we encourage you to contact us now so we can answer your questions and discuss recovering your losses. You can reach us by phone, chat or email, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week by calling (903) 892-4440 or by using the chat feature linked at the top and bottom of this webpage. Or you can use our contact form to send us an email.
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.
This article is one in a series of articles explaining why we, as civil lawyers handling personal injury and auto accident cases, almost always sue the drunk driver when we represent the victim. Our primary objective is to recover maximum compensation for the victim’s personal injuries.
We sue the drunk for several reasons. First, the insurance adjusters who are initially assigned to handle the case extend low offers to victims of drunk drivers. Second, drunk driving fits well within the definitions of both negligence and gross negligence under Texas law. Third, intoxicated drivers often do not get adequately punished by the criminal system. Fourth, there may be an additional civil lawsuit that can be brought against a bar, called a dram shop cause of action. Fifth, once the drunk driver has pleaded guilty, we can depose them under oath. Finally, jury verdicts against intoxicated drivers can be quite large.
This article addresses the first reason we always sue the drunk driver: the initial insurance adjuster usually makes a low offer before a lawsuit is filed.
In my experience as a lawyer representing DWI victims, most of the large personal auto insurance carriers make low offers to resolve the injury claims caused by DUI and DWI. This is counterintuitive, but it happens frequently. It would seem like the initial adjuster would be motived to resolve the injury claim upfront and offer more money in order to get a release in favor of the drunk driver. But this rarely occurs. In fact, the first insurance adjuster might make offers of less than the medical bills. These low offers do not reflect the value of personal injuries caused by drunk drivers.
For instance, we handled a case where a drunk driver hit another car in a parking lot, injuring the driver. The wreck was not a large collision, the property damage was minimal, the injuries were essentially soft tissue in nature, and the bills were fairly low. While this was not a case involving serious injury, it illustrates the low offers we often see on DUI cases. Before filing the suit we tried to resolve the victim’s personal injury claims against the drunk driver by negotiating with the drunk driver’s insurance company. The insurance adjuster offered less than our client’s medical bills to settle the personal injury claim.
In response, we sued the drunk driver. There are many reasons to sue the drunk driver, and one reason is that a new adjuster is often assigned to handle the claim after the suit is filed. The first adjuster is usually replaced by a new litigation adjuster. The litigation adjuster may have a more realistic evaluation and realize that the drunk driver has a large amount of liability. In addition, a civil lawyer is assigned by the auto insurance carrier to defend the civil case. This civil defense lawyer will most likely know about the size of civil jury verdicts rendered against drunk drivers, which can be quite large. The new adjuster and lawyer, along with the pressure of the civil litigation, will cause the insurance company to re-evaluate their offer, and that is exactly what happened in our case against the drunk driver that hit our client in the parking lot.
In that case, even though the drunk driver had not pleaded guilty, the investigating police agency released their investigation to us in response to a subpoena. Those records and videos showed the drunk driver was very intoxicated, someone was passed out the back seat of her car, and she was not cooperative with the police officer. We gave that evidence to the drunk driver’s lawyer and requested that the drunk driver give a deposition. The insurance company re-evaluated the case and offered our client 100% of the drunk driver’s personal injury insurance policy limit in exchange for a release of the drunk driver.
That case was resolved for several reasons, all of which stemmed from the lawsuit. The point of this article is that when we sue to recover for the victim of a drunk driver, a new adjuster and lawyer are assigned to handle the claim. They will most likely evaluate the personal injury claim with a more realistic valuation in the context of litigation.
If you have been hurt by a drunk driver please call our firm at (903) 892-4440. The consultation is free and we can discuss suing the drunk driver for your personal injuries.
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.