Being arrested for a DWI crash in Texas is scary, confusing, and stressful. Dealing with criminal proceedings is complex and intimidating. And just when you think everything is being handled, you are served with a lawsuit. How can that be possible?
If you have been arrested for a DWI in Texas, you may already know the possible outcome of a criminal conviction:
- Hefty fine
- First Offense up to $2000
- Second Offense up to $4000
- Third Offense up to $10.000
- Jail time
- First Offense from 3 to 180 days
- Second Offense from 30 days to a year
- Third Offense from 2 to 10 years
- Suspension of your license
- Other penalties and controls
In addition to these penalties, you may be required to attend counseling or rehabilitation, have a permanent mark on your record, and be dropped from your car insurance company. A DWI conviction could have a negative impact on your employment and relationships. In addition, you could be sued in civil court for damages to the injured party of the DWI crash.
How Can I Be Sued in Civil Court for A Criminal Offense?
There is a big difference between criminal and civil DWI cases. In a criminal case, you are held responsible for being charged with a DWI, with the above penalties imposed. In a civil case, however, an injured party, or family of a victim of a crash, can sue for damages. These damages include, but are not limited to:
- Vehicle damage caused by the crash
- Personal injury, to include:
- Medical bills, including past and future expenses, prosthetics, surgeries, prescriptions, etc.
- Loss of income if, as a result of the accident, the plaintiff can not work or will not be able to work in the future
- Emotional trauma, pain and suffering
- Scarring and disfigurement
- Rehabilitation, in-home care, medical devices
There can also be punitive damages awarded to the person filing the claim under special circumstances. The judge makes the award, not only to offer compensation to the plaintiff, but also to punish the driver.
Even if you are not convicted of a criminal DWI, you could still be sued in civil court.
Would I Actually Have To Go To Court for a DWI Crash?
Maybe. Many times, your insurance company can offer a settlement to the person filing the claim, and they can negotiate without going to court. However, sometimes the plaintiff may not accept the offer, or your insurance coverage is not enough to cover the claim. In Texas, the minimum car insurance requirements are:
- Bodily injury to one person in an accident, $30,000
- If multiple people are injured in a single accident, the minimum coverage is $60,000.
- Property damage minimum of $25,000
If you are sued for an amount greater than your coverage, you could be personally liable for the amount above your policy limits.
Your insurance company may feel that the person filing the suit is partially responsible for the accident. In Texas, the comparative negligence laws allow the court to reduce the amount of money paid if they can prove that the victim contributed to the cause of the crash. This determination must be handled in court, unless the insurance company can make an accepted offer to the victim before going to court.
What Should I Do if I Am Being Sued in Civil Court?
The first thing you should do if you have been served with notification of the lawsuit, is to call your insurance company. This requires your immediate attention since there is often a deadline to respond. If you have not responded in the time frame, you could be held in default, and a default judgment will be made. Your insurance company will ask for all your documentation and refer the case to their legal department. However: your insurance company lawyer is paid to protect the interests of the insurance company, not yours! It is in your best interest to contact an attorney on your own, so that you can be fully protected in a suit.
Call an Attorney You Can Trust
If you have been arrested for DWI crash in Texas, and are being sued in criminal court, call the offices of Stephen T Bowling: DWI & Criminal Defense Attorneys as soon as possible. We will work with your insurance company to get the best outcome for you and protect your interests. If you have questions, call us for a free case evaluation. We will work diligently to provide the best strategies for your case and your future. Contact us today to get started!