The legal implications of drunk driving in Texas have been significantly heightened in recent years, particularly with the introduction of new laws that add layers of penalties and responsibilities for offenders. The state of Texas takes a tough stance on Driving While Intoxicated or Driving Under the Influence (DWI, DUI). It is a sobering reality to think about how a single decision can lead to significant legal ramifications, not to mention the emotional scars left on the victims of these accidents.
- Recent Legislative Changes: A new law took effect in Texas on September 1, 2023. It is titled Bentley’s Law and takes its name from Bentley, the four-year-old grandson of Missouri resident Cecilia Williams. Bentley tragically lost both of his parents and a sibling in an accident involving a drunk driver back in April 2021. Cecilia, who was left to care for Bentley, created and lobbied for the law. Bentley’s Law imposes additional financial responsibilities on individuals convicted of intoxication manslaughter. Under this law, drunk drivers who cause the death of a parent are required to pay child support for the surviving children until they turn 18 (or 19 if they are still in high school past the age of 18). Even if the convicted individual serves time in prison and has no income during that period, they are still required to begin paying all arrears within a year of their release from prison. The payments will continue until all of the victim’s surviving children turn 18. In effect, Bentley’s Law requires convicted drunk drivers to pay restitution for their actions. Judges who are determining the child support amount in these cases will take into account various factors to determine the amount of restitution. These factors include the financial resources of the surviving parent or guardian, the standard of living to which the child is accustomed, the needs of the child, and the defendant’s financial resources.
- Civil Lawsuits: Victims of drunken drivers also have the right to sue for damages in civil lawsuits. Obviously, a victim can sue the drunk driver, but other persons and entities may also share some part of the liability. For example, if the owner of the motor vehicle gave the drunk driver permission to use the vehicle, the owner may also be liable. Texas laws also provide for dram shop and social host liability. Dram shop liability applies to anyone who sold an alcoholic beverage to a person, knowing that the person was intoxicated. Besides placing liability on sellers of alcohol, Texas law also allows for suits against persons who own or lease residences where minors are knowingly served alcohol. The adult who hosted a party and served alcohol to the minor may be held liable if this minor gets into an automobile accident later that night because he was driving while intoxicated. A civil lawsuit can be brought against the individual who served the minor, besides the drunken driver in this particular instance.
- Victim Support in Texas: Victims of drunk driving accidents may be entitled to certain types of support, such as legal assistance, financial aid for medical and funeral expenses, counseling services, and support groups. Victims and their families can often access these services through state-sponsored programs and non-profit organizations like Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD). To find out the resources available, it would be advisable to contact local law enforcement agencies, state victim services departments, or organizations specializing in supporting victims of drunk driving.
At Ceja Law Firm PLLC, our experienced drunk-driving accident lawyers will carefully investigate your case and identify all of the at-fault parties so we can seek to hold them accountable. If a drunk driver in Houston has injured you or your loved one, contact us today to schedule your free initial consultation to discuss your case.