Vehicles are transportation tools, but they can also be deadly weapons when operated by someone not in full control of their mental faculties. The sad truth is that drunk drivers cause thousands of deaths around the country every year, including right here in Texas.
Families are often left reeling in shock when a collision claims the life of someone they love. They want justice, and Texas will try to give it to them. State laws empower prosecutors to take legal action against drivers whose impairment leads to the death of another person. Drunk drivers who cause fatal crashes can expect to face charges of criminally negligent homicide.
However, prosecution doesn’t always lead to a conviction, and a conviction won’t necessarily mean that a person who caused a drunk driving crash serves any jail time. Can you take civil action against a driver already facing vehicular homicide and/or driving while intoxicated (DWI) charges for causing the death of your loved one?
A criminal case will not prevent your civil case
There is no rule that eliminates your right to seek civil justice against someone who hurt your family just because the state has charged them with a crime. Surviving family members may choose to file a wrongful death lawsuit against a driver who has not gone to trial for vehicular homicide or impaired driving. If the trial is quick, possibly due to a plea bargain, they can also file such a lawsuit after the resolution of the criminal case.
If the criminal case is successful, a conviction will bolster your civil complaint. The evidence used in court or the guilty plea of the defendant can help you reach the standard of proof for a civil claim. Even if the state prosecutor doesn’t secure a conviction for DWI or vehicular homicide, a wrongful death claim might still succeed. The standard of evidence in some cases is lower, making it easier for you to seek justice via a lawsuit than it is for a prosecutor to secure justice via a conviction.
The better you understand your rights as a surviving family member after an unfortunate loss, the easier it will be to advocate for yourself and the people you love after a fatal drunk driving crash.