Hit by a Drunk Driver? Act Quickly

In personal injury cases involving a drunk driver, there’s an additional time constraint that doesn’t exist in other situations. Usually, the statute of limitations sets the amount of time an injury victim has to commence a lawsuit against the person who injured him. For personal injury cases in Texas, that’s generally the two year rule for tort actions. So, ordinarily you would have two years after an incident to find an injury lawyer and start a suit.

But, for victims hit by a drunk driver, there can be an additional restriction. Texas has what is known as a Dram Shop Act, which applies to people or businesses who sell or provide alcoholic beverages. The Dram Shop Act allows you to hold the bar responsible for your injuries if they served the driver who hit you while he was visibly intoxicated. If a bar serves a person who is clearly drunk, and that person then hits you while driving home, law holds the bar responsible as well as the drunk driver. But, in order to do this you have to notify the bar within 180 days of the incident and begin your lawsuit within 2 years. These restrictions over rule the standard limitation period and impose a greater burden on victims to act quickly.

A heavily divided Supreme Court addressed the constitutionality of the statute. The victim was hit by a drunk driver shortly after he left the a tavern where he had been drinking all night. The victim filed her complaint a little over a year after the accident, but the District Court dismissed it because she had not given notice to the tavern. The victim appealed and challenged the constitutionality of the law. The majority of justices ruled that the law was constitutional (at least under the challenges the victim brought up in her appeal).

But, a concurring opinion, filed by a Justice raised an interesting point. The purpose of the law is to put Tavern owners on notice that something has happened. Conceivably, a driver could leave a bar, get in an accident miles and miles away, and the bar would have no way of knowing anything had happened. But in this case it was undisputed that the accident happened almost immediately after the drunk driver left the tavern. Highway Patrol Officers spoke with bar employees that night. There is no arguing that the tavern was aware of the incident. It appears a majority of the Court would have accepted that argument, but it was not raised on appeal.

Boating Accidents

If you spend much time in at the water, then you know that summertime means an influx of people – and that more than a few of them are towing boats. In summertime the lakes transform from relatively empty fishing spots to top boating destinations. Unfortunately, not everyone comes prepared and knowledgeable about boating safety and regulations. And those people pose a real threat to the rest of us.

Too often, a day of drinking and careless boating can end in serious injury or death. As boating injury lawyers, we are aware of the dangers that reckless boaters pose. As natives who grew up around the water and with boating safety in mind, we’re even more outraged by what some people will do on the water.

Too often, people think that watercraft are just toys, that don’t deserve the respect and care that we would ordinarily show to motorized vehicles. And honestly, the opposite is true. We may spend 12 months a year driving our cars, but only a month or two of boating. Our skills get rusty and our intuitions fail. That’s one reason it’s even more important to be hyper vigilant on the water. Another good reason is that even if you’re being careful, it’s a likely bet that someone else isn’t.

Have fun, but remember to take care out on the water. As a starting point, here’s a list of items  law requires you to have on your boat:

  • Life jackets: U.S. Coast Guard approved Personal Flotation Devices (PFDs or life jackets) must fit the intended wearer, be readily accessible, and be in good condition.
  • Children under 12 years of age must wear a life jacket on a boat less than 26 feet in length that is in motion.
  • Anyone towed by a boat must wear a life jacket.
  • Motorboats less than 26 feet long must have at least one B-1 fire extinguisher.
  • Exception: motorboats less than 26 feet long that are propelled by an outboard motor and are completely open construction (no closed spaces where gasoline fumes may be trapped) are not required to have a fire extinguisher.
  • Motorboats 26 feet to less than 40 feet long must have at least two B-1 or one B-II fire extinguishers.
  • Motorboats 40 feet to not more than 65 feet long must have at least three B-1 or one B-1 , and one B-II fire extinguishers.
  • When a fixed fire extinguishing system is installed and operational in the machinery space of a boat, one less B-1 fire extinguisher is required.
  • A motorboat 16 to 26 feet long must carry some means of producing an efficient sound signal that is audible for one-half mile, such as a whistle or a horn.
  • A motorboat more than 26 feet long must have on board a bell and a whistle or horn capable of making a sound that is audible for one mile.
  • Between sunset and sunrise and at other times of restricted visibility, vessels in operation must display navigational lights. All white lights required by the rules must be visible from a distance of at least two miles. All colored lights must be visible for a distance of at least one mile.
  • Navigation lights include:
  • a green light on the starboard (right) side of the boat
  • a red light on the port (left) side of the boat
  • a white light that is visible in all directions (usually located on the stern and higher than the red and green lights)

Be sure to check with Fish & Wildlife Parks for a full list of rules and regulations. And if you are injured because of someone else’s negligence, please consider calling the boat accident attorneys at our law firm.

Negligent Traffic Director

One who assumes to act, even though gratuitously, may thereby become subject to the duty of acting carefully, if he acts at all. Restatement of Torts, § 323.

In September, a man was bicycling when a dump truck pulled along side him, but did not completely pass. The two rode like that for “an uncomfortable amount of time.” Ahead, the dump truck driver saw a driver who had been driving the opposite direction and was stopped, waiting to turn left. Cars were lining up behind the driver wanting to turn left and were beginning to pass him on his right.

The dump truck stopped and motioned for the driver to make his turn, which he did, and collided with the bicyclist who had not stopped along with the dump truck. The bicyclist sued both drivers for his injuries.

At the District Court, the Judge ruled that the dump truck driver was “no more responsible for the bicyclist than he was for any of the hundreds of other drivers on the road,” and that there is “no authority for the bicyclist’s proposition that a driver who courteously yields his right-of-way to a left-turning driver is responsible for determining if all other lanes of traffic are clear of pedestrians or bicycles or whatever may be there.” The bicyclist appealed this decision to the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court re-iterated its adoption of the restatement of torts section quoted above. By making the decision to act, the dump truck driver assumed the responsibility of making sure that his action was reasonably prudent. The Court ruled that it was reasonably foreseeable harm could come to those traveling behind the dump truck from the driver’s decision to waive for the driver turning left to turn.

In deciding to direct traffic, the dump truck driver assumed the responsibility of directing traffic safely. The jury should be allowed to decide whether the truck driver breached that duty and whether that breach caused the bycyclist’s injuries and damages.