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Wrongful Death Claims after Fatal Drunk Driving-Related Crashes

Losing a loved one in a drunk driving accident seems to be the definition of tragedy. One person’s senseless act of getting behind the wheel when they were intoxicated can devastate the lives of absolute strangers. When a loved one is killed by such a reckless act, there is an overwhelming sense of grief. There is also anger and the desire to send a strong message to the person responsible that their actions are inexcusable. Filing a wrongful death lawsuit can help surviving loved ones obtain the justice they deserve after having lost a loved one due to the senseless negligence of a drunk driver.

There are several different types of damages available to the family who has lost a loved one in a drunk driving accident. There is the option to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the driver who caused the crash, and then filing a dram shop lawsuit if the driver was served alcohol at a restaurant or bar before they crashed their car.

In Texas, dram shop laws hold establishments liable for selling alcohol to a person who is obviously intoxicated. However, the licensed alcohol serving establishment can only be held liable for the percentage of their responsibility for the injuries to the patron or caused by the patron. The driver is responsible for driving after having consumed alcohol.

The family can seek damages in compensation for economic losses, which can include loss of future earnings and funeral expenses. The surviving loved ones can seek compensation for pain and suffering, loss of companionship and counseling services. A spouse can seek damages for loss of consortium.

In the case of a drunk driving accident where the cause of death can be directly attributed to the flagrantly negligent actions of the intoxicated driver, punitive damages might also be available. Punitive damages (exemplary damages in the Texas code), which have the intention to punish the drunk driver, may only be awarded by a unanimous jury with regard to the defendant’s liability.

If the driver is also facing criminal charges in the accident, the plaintiff’s personal injury attorney may choose to wait until the criminal case has been decided before bringing the wrongful death action. This way, the criminal conviction can be used as proof of the defendant’s fault in the wrongful death civil proceeding.

If you have lost a loved one in a drunk driving related accident, contact our firm to schedule a free consultation. We will discuss your case and help you understand your options for recovering compensation.

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Attorney J. Kent McAfee