Does a drunk driver’s DWI conviction limit lawsuit options?

On Behalf of | Oct 6, 2023 | Car accidents

The state of Texas imposes a variety of penalties against someone who is convicted of a driving while intoxicated (DWI) offense. Should the state pursue criminal charges, the penalties a judge could impose for a conviction could include jail time, fines and a driver’s license suspension.

A motorist could also have civil liability in a scenario where they caused a crash that injured others are caused substantial property damage. They may have to cover the costs of the people they hurt. Yet, such lawsuits are only filed by those who understand that they have the right to pursue damages in civil court. Those affected by a drunk driving collision might be unfamiliar with their personal rights. Does the state’s successful prosecution of a DWI case impact a crash victim’s right to sue a drunk driver?

Civil justice is separate from criminal justice

Most people have at best a cursory understanding of the criminal justice system in Texas and may not know much of anything about civil litigation. Many people are familiar with the idea of double jeopardy and may mistakenly apply it to their situation. The law in the United States protects people from malicious prosecution. The government cannot repeatedly charge someone with a criminal offense over the same incident. This protection from double jeopardy only relates to criminal matters and not someone’s civil liability.

Those affected by criminal activity could file a lawsuit regardless of whether the state pursues charges or successfully convicts someone. If anything, successful prosecution will ensure that there is evidence supporting someone’s claim that the drunk driver violated the law and is therefore likely at least partially liable for the incident.

The greater the costs generated by an impaired motorist, the greater the chances that the people affected may need to take legal action regardless of whether the state prosecutes the matter as well. Seeking legal guidance to learn more about the rules that apply to personal injury lawsuits may benefit those harmed by a drunk driver.