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Drunk Driving Accidents in Texas – Criminal and Civil Approaches

O.J. Simpson’s recent conviction brings to mind the paradox that occurred when he was found not guilty of murdering his ex-wife but was found responsible for the murder in a civil suit and was ordered to pay millions in damages.

This occurs because in a criminal trial the prosecution must prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt while in a civil suit the plaintiff only has to prove the case by a preponderance of the evidence. This allows a defendant to be found not guilty in a criminal trial but also have a different jury hear the facts in a civil trial and award damages. Most cases that involve both criminal and civil allegations are not nearly as sensational as the O.J. Simpson trial but many involve criminal conduct such as drunk driving.

An example would be when a defendant is in an accident and is also charged with Driving While Intoxicated. If the Defendant is ultimately found not guilty of the DWI or has the case dismissed it is still possible for the plaintiff in a civil suit to prove that the defendant was driving while intoxicated. Bringing forth evidence of the DWI in the civil case is done to clearly establish liability (fault on the drunk driver) and to enhance and highlight the conduct complained of, to seek full redress and compensation in the civil personal injury case.

It is important that your civil lawyer understands the science and statutes regarding DWI. Only with a thorough knowledge of these issues can they be effectively brought before a judge or jury in a civil lawsuit. Likewise, if the drunk driver became intoxicated or impaired at a bar or nightclub, that establishment may have responsibility towards the innocent victim. This is known as Dram Shop Liability. It takes experience and resources to understand the science behind blood-alcohol content, the consumption rate and the rate at which alcohol leaves the blood stream, and the likelihood that a bar tender or other club employee knew or should have known by the actors conduct that they were already intoxicated but were nonetheless served more alcohol.