The implications of drunk driving or while under the influence of drugs are far-reaching when it happens in Texas. The charges can be either civil or criminal. Failure to suffer liability for civil penalties does not guarantee immunity against criminal charges. Furthermore, an acquittal on any of the charges does not mean the driver will escape liability for other damages arising from the accident.
Rules for Truck Drivers in Texas
Although all commercial vehicle drivers follow certain rules set by federal law, Texas has extra regulations that are more stringent to protect all its road users. The extra laws specific to Texas include:
- A ban on using mobile devices while driving
- Mandatory screening for drugs and alcohol under the 1991 Omnibus Transportation Employee Testing Act
- Keeping an updated vehicle maintenance schedule
- Restriction on length of shifts of continuous driving
Besides that, the driver must acquire the necessary training and certifications before getting behind the wheel.
Testing Required for Major Crashes
After a major crash, the major objective of investigations center on proof of the driver’s intoxication and his behavior. For this, the officers in charge should conduct some tests and queries to build concrete evidence. Also under Section 382.303 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, 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 49.01(2) defines an intoxicated person as one with an alcohol concentration of 0.08 percent or more in his body. Similarly, the inebriated 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. Getting the best truck accident lawyer for your case is a must to maximize compensation.
When is it a Criminal or a Civil Case?
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 the strength of your defense and the severity of the offenses.
A drunk driving criminal case can attract a jail term of up to 180 days and a fine of $2000. Other penalties on the driver would include suspension or cancellation of the driving license. Consider too that beyond the criminal charges, the drunk driver may also have injuries to nurse from the accident. That penalty is for a first offense.
Repeat offenders face tougher punishments of up to 10 years in prison, and or a fine of not less than 2 years. They also need a special ignition switch to get back on the road. Things get worse if the intoxicated driving offense involved a victim younger than 15 years.
A civil case materializes when an individual pursues recovery from a drunk driver. The state is not a party in such a case. In terms of the amount of capping on financial claims, in a civil case, the court does not limit how much a plaintiff may claim from the defendant. This is unlike a criminal case where the law caps the financial penalties the defendant must pay.
Who else is 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 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. This 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 criminal for an owner of an alcohol-selling establishment to keep topping up the glass of an intoxicated driver.
The law also holds to account party hosts who serve guests alcohol to a level that culminates in a vehicle crash. The Dram Shop Law in Texas, however, is a complex matter for which you need an experienced personal injury lawyer to reap its potential to your advantage.
What to Do Before the Authorities Arrive
An accident can occur anywhere. As a truck driver, your employer must have hired a truck accident attorney who offers a quick response service. In some cases, the incident may find you out of range and your rescue team may take a while before showing up.
Well, you can get the ball rolling in your favor by taking the initiative to document some evidence. Although the defense lawyers and officers will scour the scene for it, it doesn’t hurt to get it fresh before any interference, especially by onlookers. Take pictures of the following:
- Capture all the involved vehicles in their eventual resting positions
- Any debris related to the accident
- Patterns of skid marks indicating the direction of the truck before the accident
Police Officers and Defense Attorney at the Scene
The investigations officer collects data and may take photographs and do further investigation. Other evidence that should be collected from the crash vehicle is the black box or the computer data of the vehicle’s mechanical operations.
The log shows if all the vehicle parts were in optimum condition as well as the speed and braking. This proves whether the driver had contravened speeding rules before the crash or failed to take appropriate action. Officers should also interrogate witnesses on the site. The officers will only photograph, measure, and download on a very severe injury or fatal crashes.
We have seen many examples of the defense, either attorney or claims adjuster 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.
A Trucking Accident Attorney to Protect Your Rights
Some unscrupulous trucking companies hire defense attorneys to shift the blame of the crash to other innocent parties involved in it. Some attorneys further seek out accident reconstruction experts who manipulate the evidence at the crash site in their favor.
That is why pictures play a crucial role in 18-wheeler crash lawsuits in safeguarding the truth. Your personal injury lawyer will also advise you on the preservation of your vehicle to avoid any tampering. This is to defend you if the crash happened because of a malfunction and not out of intoxication or any other oversights. Note that crashes occur because some truck companies do not adhere to safety regulations.
It would be in your best interest to consult an experienced truck accident attorney to help you navigate the intricate world of personal injury law related to driving while intoxicated. Call Baumgartner Law Firm at 281-587-1111 for a consultation about your rights and options or fill out an online case consultation request.