The implications of drunk driving or while under the influence of drugs are far-reaching when it happens in Texas. Especially so when it involves a commercial truck driver. The charges can be either civil or criminal. Failure to suffer liability for criminal charges does not guarantee immunity against civil claims. Furthermore, an acquittal on any charges does not mean the driver will escape liability for other damages arising from the accident.
Drug and Alcohol Rules for Truck Drivers in Texas
No driver shall use alcohol or be under the influence of alcohol within 4 hours before going on duty or operating. A commercial motor vehicle. 392.5 Alcohol prohibition.
Testing Required for Some Major Crashes
After a major crash where alcohol is suspected, the major objective of investigations centers on proof of the driver’s intoxication and behavior. When alcohol or drug use by truckers is indicated, the officers should conduct tests and queries to build concrete evidence.
Also, under Section 382 of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations, Trucking companies must test their driver after an injury or fatal accident as soon as possible.
With reasonable suspicion of alcohol or drug use by truckers, officers should:
- Record accounts from eyewitnesses
- Conduct blood alcohol tests to ascertain the driver’s Blood Alcohol Content
- Conduct field sobriety tests
The Texas Penal Code Section 49 defines an intoxicated person as one with an alcohol concentration of 0.08 percent or more in his body. Similarly, the drunk would be unable to perform normal mental and physical functions after taking alcohol, another drug, or both. In both definitions of intoxication, the driver faces arrest and charges for Driving While Intoxicated.
Trucking Company Obligations to Drug Test
Motor Carriers must comply with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations that address drug testing of drivers. Testing must include pre-employment drug screening, random drug testing, and post-accident testing.
Violations of the law by either the trucking company or the driver who caused a wreck are often only uncovered after a lawsuit has been filed, and the records have been obtained and examined. For your case, getting the best trucking accident attorney in Houston, TX, is necessary to maximize compensation.
When is it a Criminal or a Civil Case?
Civil DWI cases are different from criminal cases. In a criminal drunk driving case, the State of Texas prefers charging against you. The state punishes you for the crime either by a conviction in prison, a fine, or both. It depends on your defense’s strength and the offense’s severity.
A simple drunk driving criminal case without an accident injuring others can attract a jail term of up to 180 days and a fine of $2000. Other penalties for the driver include suspension or cancellation of the driving license. That penalty is for a first offense.
Repeat offenders face tougher punishments of up to 10 years and a fine of not less than two years. They also need a special ignition switch to get back on the road. Things get worse if the intoxicated driving offense involves a victim younger than 15 years.
Civil Lawsuits After a DWI Crash
A civil case materializes when an individual pursues damages from a drunk driver. The state is not a party in such a case. Regarding the amount of capping on financial claims, the court does not limit how much a plaintiff may claim from the defendant in a typical civil case (Texas has a few exceptions where it limits damages, like cases against governmental entities).
Who Else Can Liable- The Dram Shop Law
Other than the law holding an intoxicated driver liable for injuries and damages resulting from the crash caused under inebriation, others not on the scene can also suffer consequences. Of these are the owners of alcohol-selling establishments that sell alcohol to a driver, which intoxicates him enough to cause dangerous driving. The law in Texas is known as Dram Shop Liability.
Overserving is the Essence of the Dram Shop Law
Although the application of the Dram Shop law varies across different states, in Texas, it deems it unacceptable for an owner of an alcohol-selling establishment to keep topping up the glass of an intoxicated patron once they are obviously intoxicated.
However, the Dram Shop Law in Texas is a complex matter. You need an experienced personal injury lawyer to reap its potential to your advantage.
What to Do Before the Authorities Arrive
If you have been hurt in an accident and suspect the other driver is drunk—take steps to do so if you can do so safely.
- Check for injuries
- Call 911
- Take pictures or video of the following (if you can do so safely):
Capture all the involved vehicles in their eventual resting positions.
Patterns of skid marks indicating the direction of the truck before the accident
- Obtain the contact information for any witnesses.
- Seek Help for Those Injured
Police Officers at the Scene
If drug or alcohol use is suspected, the investigating officer will make that suspicion the center of the investigation. Field sobriety testing and blood or breath testing may be called for in determining the condition of a driver.
The investigating officer collects data and may take photographs and do further investigation. Other evidence that should be collected from the crash vehicle later is the black box or the computer data of the vehicle’s mechanical operations.
Officers should also interrogate witnesses on the site. The officers only photograph, measure, and download event data information with severe injuries or fatal crashes.
We have seen many examples of the defense attorney showing up at the scene to talk with the officers and gather information to help their defense. It is up to you to hire a truck accident lawyer to protect your interests.
Investigation After the Crash
The event data recorder for a large truck should be downloaded if speed or braking is a suspected issue in a wreck.
If the condition of a semi-truck is suspected as a cause of the crash, a detailed investigation should be conducted by a skilled trucking accident attorney. Such investigation would include an inspection of the truck and a review of relevant documents.
Get a Trucking Accident Attorney to Protect Your Rights
Some unscrupulous trucking companies hire defense attorneys to shift the blame for the crash to other innocent parties. Some attorneys further seek out accident reconstruction experts who may manipulate the evidence at the crash site in their favor.
Your personal injury lawyer will also advise preserving your vehicle and documenting your medical care after a serious injury truck crash. Keep evidence to defend your case and claims. Many crashes occur because some truck companies do not adhere to safety regulations.
Contact the Expert Truck Accident Lawyers at Baumgartner Law Firm
Our trucking accident attorneys have been helping victims injured in accidents in semi-trucks or tractor-trailers for over three decades. Get our extensive experience to work for your injury accident. Contact us online or call (281) 587-1111.
6711 Cypress Creek Pkwy, Houston, TX, 77069