Houston Drunk Driving Accident Attorneys
Driving While Intoxicated/Drunk Driving Accidents in Texas
Driving while intoxicated (DWI) isn’t just a crime—it’s also a serious act of negligence that frequently results in devastating accidents, catastrophic injuries, and deaths. According to the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), approximately one in four (or 25 percent) accident-related fatalities in 2020 involved a driver who was under the influence of alcohol. In total, 958 people died in drunk driving accidents in Texas in 2020.
After an accident with a drunk driver, you deserve justice. At The Shellist Law Firm, PLLC, our Houston drunk driving accident attorneys represent injured victims and the families of those tragically killed in alcohol-related crashes throughout Harris County and the surrounding areas. We have extensive trial experience and prepare every case as though it will go to court. Our innovative and collaborative approach often allows us to achieve favorable settlements on behalf of our clients, but we are always prepared to seek maximum compensation, even if that means going to trial.
A Brief Overview of Texas DWI Laws
In Texas, driving while intoxicated (DWI) is a criminal offense that carries serious penalties. Also referred to as “driving under the influence,” or DUI, operating a motor vehicle while impaired by alcohol (or drugs) can result in jail or prison time, steep fines, driver’s license suspension, and other criminal and administrative penalties.
In Texas, it is a crime to operate a motor vehicle:
- While impaired by alcohol or drugs, regardless of blood alcohol concentration (BAC)
- With a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 percent or above if over the age of 20
- With a BAC of 0.04 percent if a commercial driver’s license (CDL) holder
- With any detectable trace of alcohol in one’s system if a minor (under the age of 21)
In addition to criminal charges, drivers who violate the state’s DWI laws are subject to civil litigation. In other words, victims of drunk driving accidents and their families have the right to file personal injury or wrongful death lawsuits against those who violate the law.
Civil lawsuits are separate legal actions from criminal DWI cases; rather than resulting in criminal and/or administrative penalties, a successful civil lawsuit against a drunk driver will result in an award of damages to the victim(s).
Can You Sue a Bar or Restaurant That Overserved a Drunk Driver?
In addition to bringing a claim against a drunk driver, you may be able to file a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit against a bar, restaurant, or similar establishment after a drunk driving accident. Under Texas’s dram shop and social host liability laws, anyone who is licensed or legally permitted to serve alcohol, or anyone who sells alcohol, can be held liable for damages in certain situations.
To have a dram shop claim, you must prove the following:
- The patron (e.g., the person who consumed alcohol) was “obviously intoxicated” when the provider served them alcohol
- The alcohol provider could reasonably tell that the patron was obviously intoxicated and, therefore, could understand that they posed a danger to others
- The patron’s intoxication was the direct or proximate cause of your injuries and resulting damages
In other words, you must prove that the vendor overserved the individual who then went on to drive drunk and cause the accident that left you injured. If your loved one was killed by a drunk driver, you could have a claim against the vendor if you can prove these elements, including that the patron’s intoxication was the direct or proximate cause of your loved one’s death.
Does Texas Have a Social Host Liability Law?
Texas’s Alcohol and Beverage Code has a provision commonly referred to as the “social host liability law” that allows victims of drunk drivers and others injured by intoxicated individuals to bring claims against anyone of legal drinking age (21 and over) who provides alcohol to a minor (someone under the age of 18). This includes restaurants, bars, and other establishments, but it also includes social hosts, such as friends or neighbors.
To hold a social host alcohol provider liable for damages, you must prove the following:
- The alcohol provider was at least 21 years old
- The minor was younger than 18 years old
- The alcohol provider was not the minor’s parent, guardian, or custodian
- You were injured, and the minor’s intoxication was the proximate cause of your damages
- The alcohol provider knowingly served alcohol to the minor, contributing to the minor’s intoxication or allowed the minor to be served/consume alcohol on their premises, contributing to the minor’s intoxication
For example, if a 16-year-old high school student attended a party and drank alcohol provided by a friend’s 22-year-old sibling, and the 22-year-old knew that there would be minors at the party but did not try to stop them from drinking, that 22-year-old could be held legally liable for damages caused by the high school student if the high school student drove drunk and caused an accident.
These cases are very complex and difficult to prove. We strongly recommend that you reach out to our team at The Shellist Law Firm, PLLC to learn whether you may have a dram shop or social host liability claim. Our attorneys aggressively pursue all avenues of compensation on behalf of our clients and are prepared to evaluate all of your various options. We offer personalized legal representation tailored to your unique situation.
What Types of Damages Can Be Recovered in Drunk Driving Accident Claims?
The purpose of filing a civil lawsuit against a drunk driver is to collect financial compensation for specific losses, known as “damages,” caused by the crash. These losses can be economic or non-economic in nature and typically relate to the victim’s injuries or the loss of a loved one.
Examples of damages commonly available in drunk driving accident cases include:
- Emergency medical expenses
- Ambulance/hospital fees
- Surgery and other treatments
- Medications and medical equipment
- Physical therapy
- Ongoing and future medical care
- Lost income, wages, and benefits
- Loss of future income/earnings
- Lost earning capacity
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress and trauma
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- Mental health treatment, including therapy
- Costs associated with home modifications
- In-home assistance and care
If your loved one tragically died due to a drunk driving accident, you may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit and seek the following damages:
- Medical expenses associated with the deceased’s final treatment and care
- Lost earning capacity/loss of income or financial support
- Funeral and/or burial expenses
- Survivor’s mental pain and anguish
- Loss of love, companionship, comfort, care, and society
- Loss of services provided by the deceased/the deceased would have provided
- Lost inheritance, including the amount the deceased would have likely saved had they lived
In some cases, it may also be possible to pursue punitive damages. Also known as exemplary damages, the purpose of punitive damages is not to compensate victims for specific losses but, rather, to punish at-fault parties for gross negligence and/or malice.
Our Houston drunk driving accident lawyers can review the details of your case and determine which types of damages you may be eligible to claim. Although we generally strive for cost-effective and time-saving settlements on behalf of our clients, we are fully prepared and willing to go to trial if that is what it takes to recover the maximum amount our clients are owed.
How The Shellist Law Firm, PLLC Can Help with Your Drunk Driving Accident Claim
For 20 years, Attorney Steven Shellist has been recognized as an aggressive and tenacious trial lawyer who won’t back down when it comes to representing his clients’ rights. Our entire firm is prepared to put this kind of representation on your side. We employ a collaborative approach and develop creative legal strategies tailored to each individual’s unique situation, needs, and goals.
We are prepared to handle every aspect of your case, from gathering powerful evidence to working with accident reconstructionists and medical professionals to obtain expert testimony to communicating with the insurance company and aggressively seeking a fair settlement or verdict on your behalf. You should spend this time focused on healing—not on fighting for the justice and compensation you rightly deserve. Let our firm handle the details of your case so that you can simply work on moving forward with your life.
Car Accident $20,000,000
Illegal Sexual Recording $800,000
Dog Attack $750,000
Car Accident $300,000
Oil Rig Settlement $2,000,000.00
Practicing Law for Two DecadesHaving practiced law for 20 years, you can be confident attorney Steve Shellist can successfully handle your case.
Extensive Trial ExperienceAs a former chief prosecutor, Mr. Shellist knows how to present a compelling case in front of a jury.
Highly Personalized RepresentationAt Shellist Law, we believe every case requires tailored representation in order to achieve the best possible outcome for the client.
Legal Analyst on ABC-13Over the years, Mr. Shellist has been called on by ABC-13 News to share his expertise on many newsworthy cases.