Personal Injury Lawyer Houston, TX
Personal Injury Lawyer Houston, TX
Personal Injury Cases Involving Impaired Driving Accidents
If you have been struck by a drunk driver and have suffered injuries as a result of that accident, our Houston, TX personal injury firm can assist you with exploring your legal options. Depending on the circumstances surrounding your accident, you may be entitled to one or more insurance settlements, compensation via a personal injury claim, and/or (if your accident occurred while you were engaging in work-related activities) a workers’ compensation benefits award.
It is important not to make assumptions about whether you have grounds for a strong case or not until you’ve spoken with the experienced legal team at John K. Zaid & Associates. Too often, accident victims refrain from speaking with an attorney about pursuing compensation because they assume that their case isn’t valuable, there is no way to hold others accountable for the harm they’ve caused, and/or that because they were partially to blame, their case won’t succeed. Texas law allows for compensation awards to be extended to accident victims even if the harm they suffered wasn’t catastrophic and, in many cases, even if they were partially to blame for the accident that caused their injuries. In short, scheduling a consultation with our team will help you to understand whether you have strong grounds to file legal action of some sort… and chances are that you do.
Causation, Fault, and Damages
Texas is a “proportionate responsibility” state. Proportionate responsibility is a modified approach to a legal theory known as comparative negligence. In a comparative negligence state, a victim can be awarded compensation proportionate to the degree of fault that others are assigned in the wake of an accident. For example, if the monetary value of harm caused by a victim’s injuries is calculated to be $50,000 and the injury victim is assigned 20 percent of the fault for the accident that resulted in the harm, that victim can still hold others responsible for $40,000 in damages. In Texas, the accident victim must be “less” at fault than the defendant is in order to receive compensation from the defendant. This means that if you were less at fault for the harm that you have suffered, you may be entitled to compensation from a defendant who was more at fault for that harm than you were.
This is a particularly relevant standard in an injurious drunk driving case because, unless you were purposefully trying to crash your vehicle or you were also impaired at the time of the crash, the impaired driver who hit you was almost certainly more responsible for the harm you have suffered than you were, even if you were partially to blame for the accident.
What Is The Difference Between DWI and DUI?
While both DWI and DUI refer to someone being impaired while operating a vehicle in a public roadway, there are some key differences between the two terms. Firstly, DWI stands for “driving while intoxicated” and DUI stands for “driving under the influence”.
Both terms reference alcohol levels or drug use while driving and are often used interchangeably, however a DUI is not the legal term for drunk driving—or being otherwise impaired while driving. Using drugs or drinking alcohol and then getting behind the wheel of a car means you are impaired and lack the mental and physical faculties that you’d typically have while driving.
Someone who is 21 years or older can receive a DWI charge in Texas if they are caught operating a vehicle of any kind while legally intoxicated. The legal level of alcohol levels to be legally intoxicated is .08, via a blood or breathalyzer test. For drugs, if they were to test you and find drugs in your system—or in your car—you are likely to receive a DWI charge.
Age is really where the difference comes into play. If someone is a minor and they are pulled over and found to be intoxicated while driving they will receive a DUI or a DUIA, which is “driving under the influence of alcohol”. A DUI of any kind is only given to minors.
The Zero Tolerance Policy
In Texas there is a zero tolerance policy that makes it irrelevant whether a minor who is driving is impaired by whatever alcohol they have in their system. If you are under 21 it is illegal to drive with any detectable amount of alcohol in your system. And should the alcohol content be too high (.08 or higher) the minor can receive a DWI. This is also true for if the minor has drugs in their system while driving.
Which Is Worse?
Whether a DWI or DUI is worse depends on the state. In Texas, DWI is more serious, while DUIs are only charged to underage drivers following the Texas Traffic Code. The DUI is charged at any amount of alcohol found in a minor’s system, so it is easier to be found guilty.
DWIs are charged under the Texas Penal Code, instead of the Texas Traffic Code, which means it is a serious offense with penalties like jail time, and fines.
Consequences of a DWI are more serious than a DUI. This is because a DUI is charged to a minor and their charges will not be as large and excessive as a DWI being charged to an adult might be. Minors are still growing and learning and will make mistakes, whereas an adult over 21 is supposed to know what is right and what is wrong.
For a first time DWI offense you may receive a fine of $2,000, a jail sentence of between 3 to 180 days, lose your driver’s license for a year, and find yourself with a fee to retain your license. A minor, on the other hand, may only receive a fine of $500, a suspension of their license for 60 days, 20 to 40 hours of community service and alcohol awareness classes which are mandatory.
Wrongful Death Cases Involving Impaired Driving Accidents
The death of a loved one resulting from a Texas automobile accident is devastating and traumatic. In some cases, the accident may have been unpreventable, such as those caused by an act of nature, or poor weather conditions. But many times, one or more individuals are at fault in an accident. When the crash involves a DUI charge, that fault generally rests with the intoxicated individual. But what about when there is an establishment involved, one that served alcohol to the at-fault driver? Should they be held accountable as well? And if so, to what extent? A personal injury lawyer Houston, TX families trust offers the following information.
Dram Shop Laws and Alcohol-Selling Establishments
Most states have “dram shop laws” that govern lawsuits over injuries caused by people who drink inside a bar, restaurant, pub, or other establishments. Dram shop refers to bars, clubs, taverns, or similar commercial establishments where alcoholic beverages are sold or consumed. Essentially, these laws hold such establishments liable for selling alcohol to individuals that appear to already be intoxicated at the time of sale. It also applies to the selling of alcohol to minors.
Texas does have a dram shop law on the books. The main purpose of dram shop laws is to reduce incidents of drunk driving, as well as other crimes that a person who is intoxicated may commit. Under the law, if a bartender or other server knows that a customer is drunk yet continues to serve that customer alcohol, the establishment can be held liable if the customer commits a crime, such as a drunk driving crash. A Houston personal injury lawyer can evaluate an individual case to determine if the victim’s case qualifies for damages under the dram shop law.
If a drunk driver causes a crash that injures another person, the victim can sue the drunk driver for damages that they suffer because of their injury, just as with any other type of crash. However, under the dram shop law, the victim can also sue the establishment that served the drunk driver alcohol. If the victim does not survive their injuries, their family can pursue legal action against both the driver and the establishment in a wrongful death lawsuit.
Victims Should Not Have to Pay Damages
While no amount of money could ever replace the loss of a loved one, families of DUI victims should not have to suffer additional grief because of financial strain. And, regardless of whether or not dram shop laws exist, guilty parties should be held responsible for those losses–whether they be for final expenses or a loss of income. Unfortunately, the DUI litigation process can be complex and lengthy, which can lead to even more stress for victims and their families.
If you or someone you love has been injured or killed in a DUI accident, it is important to seek qualified, professional help immediately. With a compassionate and mindful approach to wrongful death lawsuits and years of legal experience, John K. Zaid & Associates can help. Call our office today to schedule a free and confidential consultation with a member of our team.
How to Find the Right Personal Injury Lawyer
Personal injury lawyers help accident victims obtain the compensation they deserve for their injuries. However, with so many of them out there, it can be tricky to choose the right one to handle your case. Here are some helpful tips for hiring the right personal injury lawyer in Houston, TX.
- Choose a Lawyer Who Specializes in Your Case: There are many types of personal injury lawyers out there and not all of them specialize in the same types of cases. For example, some lawyers may specialize in car accidents while others may specialize in medical malpractice. It is a good idea to hire a personal injury lawyer who has extensive experience handling cases similar to yours. This way, he or she will be more likely to help you obtain a higher settlement.
- Select a Lawyer With Trial Experience: Although many personal injury cases get settled out of court, you still want to hire a personal injury lawyer who has sufficient trial experience. If the insurance company isn’t offering a fair settlement, you want your lawyer to be confident enough to go to trial and speak to a jury. If the insurance company finds out that your lawyer doesn’t have trial experience, they may try to take advantage of your lawyer.
- Hire a Lawyer With a History of High Settlements: If you were hurt in an accident, you likely have medical bills piling up and might not be able to work. That is why it is critical to hire a personal injury lawyer in Houston, TX who has a proven track record for high settlements. During your initial consultation, ask the lawyer to show you all the cases he or she has won and the amount of compensation that was awarded in each case.
- Pick a Lawyer Who Has Time for Your Case: Before you hire a personal injury lawyer, find out how many other cases he or she is currently juggling. If a lawyer has a huge caseload, he or she might not have the time to give your case the attention it deserves. It’s better to go with a lawyer who has time to work hard on your case and give you updates on a regular basis.
- Choose a Lawyer You Get Along With: There is more than experience and skill to consider when hiring a personal injury lawyer in Houston, TX. Before you make a hiring decision, make sure that you like the lawyer’s personality and get along well with him or her. This way, you will feel more comfortable around your lawyer and not be afraid to share any information with him or her.
Understanding Insurance in Personal Injury Cases
When you call John K. Zaid & Associates for a case review, there is a chance we’ll ask you about the insurance policies involved in your case. If we don’t discuss this with you during your initial consultation, we will do so early on in the case investigation. The types of insurance coverage available will vary depending on the case. Nevertheless, having access to a policy can make a big difference in what options you have and what the outcome of the case might be.
In some cases, insurance might be unavailable. This could be because the liable party was uninsured. In other cases, the defense can prove beyond all doubt that the plaintiff is completely liable. Moreover, some cases, such as work injury claims, tend to be vigorously defended. Without a personal injury lawyer in Houston, Texas on your side, there is a risk of being denied any and all compensation, or being offered a very small amount. Overall, what you should know is that insurance policies do make a difference. By understanding how this is true, you equip yourself with better knowledge about what to possibly expect.
Common Types of Insurance in Personal Injury Claims
There are a few primary types of car insurance: no-fault, first party, and third party.
- First Party – The person who purchases the policy
- Second Party – The insurance company.
- Third Party – The negligent person.
In no-fault states, you are responsible for filing your own claim against your own insurance policy. Once you understand the types of insurance coverage for an auto accident claim, you should proceed in knowing what type and amount of coverage is available. This can be found on the declaration page. If you don’t know, talk with your insurance company or lawyer.
Underinsured and Uninsured Coverage
Regardless of where you live, you should have Underinsured/Uninsured Motorist Coverage. This will cover any gap in compensation/benefits or when you happen to be in an accident in which the third party is not insured.
Every business should be equipped with liability insurance. This coverage typically covers accidents like slip and falls. Depending on how complicated the owner or insurance company wants to be, these cases can be very challenging. This is particularly true when the fault is not 100% clear. You’ll want to have a Houston, TX personal injury lawyer to help you.
Homeowners insurance covers much more than events like a tornado, hurricane, or fire. The insurance also covers injuries sustained by a guest invited to the premises. For example, a slip and fall, injury to a visiting contractor (i.e. electrician), or animal bite. If you were injured at someone’s house, their homeowner’s insurance will likely compensate you.
Workers’ Compensation Insurance
Each state has its own statutes for workers’ compensation. Generally, any company with more than 5 employees will be required to carry this kind of insurance. Employees who are injured while working, regardless of whether they were at fault, may be able to recover compensation for their lost wages and medical bills.
In addition to the above, there are other kinds of insurance like sporting insurance, boating and ATV insurance, travel insurance, medical malpractice insurance, rideshare insurance, and more. If you plan on filing a personal injury claim, and you are unsure about what insurance policy is applicable, please call John K. Zaid & Associates.
For a consultation with a Houston, TX personal injury lawyer, reach out to John K. Zaid & Associates today.
How to Handle the Insurance Company After an Accident
Many accident cases will require the need to involve an insurance company. This could include your own insurance company or that of another party’s. Regardless, there are a number of things you should and should not do at this time. As a personal injury lawyer in Houston, TX might advise, by following these simple tips, you could prevent a number of obstacles from happening.
Do: Notify Your Insurance Company
As soon as an accident happens, you should notify your own insurance company to let them know what happened. The sooner you do so, the better.
Don’t: Speak to the Other Party’s Insurance Company
At some point, an adjuster from the other party’s insurance company might reach out to you. If you answer, they might be very friendly and sympathetic to what happened. Their objectives are generally not in line with yours. They may attempt to get you to say something you don’t mean or understand. Their goal will ultimately be to pay you the least amount possible – if anything at all. You don’t have to speak to them, and you should not.
Do: Tell the Truth
It’s very important to be honest with your insurance company. Extending the truth, hiding information, or giving false statements can harm your case.
Don’t: Discuss Too Much
You are not obligated to go into too much detail. You can stick to the facts and what you know to be true. If you are unsure, tell them you are unsure. Realistically, having a personal injury lawyer in Houston, Texas communicate on your behalf may be in your best interest.
Do: Let the Adjuster Know the Extent of Your Pain
Be sure the adjuster is aware of all your pain. This is of course true for your doctor too. Everything should be known and documented. If your toe hurts or does not feel right, make it known.
Don’t: Allow the Adjuster to Downplay What Happened
In the event your adjuster tries to downplay your injuries or what happened. Or, they try to argue that a previous injury caused your pain, don’t listen. You can remain calm and stick to what you believe is true. Contact a personal injury lawyer in Houston, TX if you have not already done so.
Do: Follow All Your Doctor’s Orders
It is prudent you follow all of your doctor’s orders. Regardless of how insignificant an order might be, please adhere to it. Adjusters will look for people who are not doing so. If they can demonstrate you were not following the orders, your case could be at risk.
Don’t: Sign any Medical Release Forms
The insurance adjuster might ask you to sign various forms. One of these is a medical release form which basically gives them the right to your records. It is recommended you avoid doing so without having spoken to a lawyer.
Don’t Say Anything You Don’t Need To
Finally, you should not apologize or admit fault to anything. One small phrase like: “I feel really bad”, or “I am sorry for the other person.” can harm your case.
Call a Personal Injury Lawyer in Houston, Texas
It is your right to speak with a lawyer before you talk with any insurance company. Moreover, you can politely decline a conversation and let them know your lawyer will be in touch. Often this is the best course of action to take. To learn more, call a Houston, TX personal injury lawyer today.
Legal Assistance Is Available
If you have not yet scheduled a consultation with our experienced legal team, please do so now. As an injury victim, you deserve to understand your rights as codified by Texas law. You have nothing to lose by asking questions and receiving objective, personalized feedback. However, you may discover that by investing your time thusly, you have much to gain.