This article is one in a series of articles explaining why we, as civil lawyers handling personal injury and auto accident cases, almost always sue the drunk driver when we represent the victim. Our primary objective is to recover maximum compensation for the victim’s personal injuries.
We sue the drunk for several reasons. First, the insurance adjusters who are initially assigned to handle the case extend low offers to victims of drunk drivers. Second, drunk driving fits well within the definitions of both negligence and gross negligence under Texas law. Third, intoxicated drivers often do not get adequately punished by the criminal system. Fourth, there may be an additional civil lawsuit that can be brought against a bar, called a dram shop cause of action. Fifth, once the drunk driver has pleaded guilty, we can depose them under oath. Finally, jury verdicts against intoxicated drivers can be quite large.
This article addresses the first reason we always sue the drunk driver: the initial insurance adjuster usually makes a low offer before a lawsuit is filed.
In my experience as a lawyer representing DWI victims, most of the large personal auto insurance carriers make low offers to resolve the injury claims caused by DUI and DWI. This is counterintuitive, but it happens frequently. It would seem like the initial adjuster would be motived to resolve the injury claim upfront and offer more money in order to get a release in favor of the drunk driver. But this rarely occurs. In fact, the first insurance adjuster might make offers of less than the medical bills. These low offers do not reflect the value of personal injuries caused by drunk drivers.
For instance, we handled a case where a drunk driver hit another car in a parking lot, injuring the driver. The wreck was not a large collision, the property damage was minimal, the injuries were essentially soft tissue in nature, and the bills were fairly low. While this was not a case involving serious injury, it illustrates the low offers we often see on DUI cases. Before filing the suit we tried to resolve the victim’s personal injury claims against the drunk driver by negotiating with the drunk driver’s insurance company. The insurance adjuster offered less than our client’s medical bills to settle the personal injury claim.
In response, we sued the drunk driver. There are many reasons to sue the drunk driver, and one reason is that a new adjuster is often assigned to handle the claim after the suit is filed. The first adjuster is usually replaced by a new litigation adjuster. The litigation adjuster may have a more realistic evaluation and realize that the drunk driver has a large amount of liability. In addition, a civil lawyer is assigned by the auto insurance carrier to defend the civil case. This civil defense lawyer will most likely know about the size of civil jury verdicts rendered against drunk drivers, which can be quite large. The new adjuster and lawyer, along with the pressure of the civil litigation, will cause the insurance company to re-evaluate their offer, and that is exactly what happened in our case against the drunk driver that hit our client in the parking lot.
In that case, even though the drunk driver had not pleaded guilty, the investigating police agency released their investigation to us in response to a subpoena. Those records and videos showed the drunk driver was very intoxicated, someone was passed out the back seat of her car, and she was not cooperative with the police officer. We gave that evidence to the drunk driver’s lawyer and requested that the drunk driver give a deposition. The insurance company re-evaluated the case and offered our client 100% of the drunk driver’s personal injury insurance policy limit in exchange for a release of the drunk driver.
That case was resolved for several reasons, all of which stemmed from the lawsuit. The point of this article is that when we sue to recover for the victim of a drunk driver, a new adjuster and lawyer are assigned to handle the claim. They will most likely evaluate the personal injury claim with a more realistic valuation in the context of litigation.
If you have been hurt by a drunk driver please call our firm at (903) 892-4440. The consultation is free and we can discuss suing the drunk driver for your personal injuries.
About the Author
Christopher Rehmet is the lead litigator at Tate Rehmet Law Office and has been practicing the area of personal injury for twenty years. Prior to practicing as a civil litigator, he was a prosecuting attorney in a District Attorney’s office.