Can you bring a wrongful death claim against a drunk driver?

| Apr 8, 2020 | Wrongful Death |

Given the cultural ubiquity of anti-drunk-driving campaigns, ranging from presentations in high schools to television ads, it is virtually impossible to locate someone in the United States who doesn’t know that driving while under the influence of alcohol is both dangerous and illegal.

When a drunk driver takes the life of someone you love by causing a crash when they shouldn’t have even been on the road, it is natural to feel angry and confused. How could someone do something so selfish?

You may want to pursue justice, and under Texas law, you probably have every right to do so. Wrongful death lawsuits after a drunk driving crash allow surviving family members to hold people accountable for the impact of their decisions on someone who died and the people who love them.

A criminal conviction does not prevent a civil lawsuit

If the state of Texas already successfully brought charges against the person who caused the crash that took the life of your loved one, you might wrongfully assume that you cannot take steps to hold them accountable separately. Many people are familiar with the idea of Double Jeopardy, which means that person cannot stand trial twice for the same crime.

However, you don’t have the authority to bring criminal charges. What you will bring is a civil suit, which is a very separate thing. Not only is it possible to bring a civil suit after a conviction, but the conviction itself may improve your chances of winning the lawsuit.

How does Texas define wrongful death?

Wrongful deaths result from the wrongful actions, negligence, unskillfulness, carelessness or default of another person or potentially a business. Getting behind the wheel while under the influence of alcohol is both a wrongful act because it violates the law and negligence, as most people would readily acknowledge that impairment from alcohol makes someone a more dangerous driver.

Particularly in circumstances for a driver who pleaded guilty to an impaired driving offense, you will likely have the right as a surviving family member to bring a claim against that drunk driver for the impact their decision has had on your life.