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.
Under § 27-1-702, contributory negligence does not bar recovery in an action for negligence resulting in death or injury to person or property if the contributory negligence was not greater than the negligence of the person or the combined negligence of all persons against whom recovery is sought. This means that a plaintiff could be found partially negligent but he could still recover damages from his suit.
For example, imagine that Fred is bicycling down the road when he is struck by Ben who is driving on the same road. Even if the jury finds that Fred was negligent in his bike riding because he was wearing headphones while riding, he can still recover damages in a suit against Ben so long as the jury finds that Ben’s negligence was greater than Fred’s. To put a number on it, so long as Fred was only 49% negligent, Ben’s negligence is greater than Fred’s and Fred can still prevail.
However, “any damages allowed must be diminished in the proportion to the percentage of negligence attributable to the person recovering.” This means that while Fred can recover damages in his suit against Ben, those damages must be reduced by whatever percentage negligent Fred was. So, in the earlier example where Fred was 49% negligent, any damages that were awarded to Fred in his suit would be reduced by 49%. He can still recover 51% of whatever is awarded to him, the percentage that Ben was responsible for.
If the jury finds that Fred’s negligence is equal to or greater than Ben’s negligence, then Fred will be unable to collect any damages under the rule. In a case with multiple defendants, the combined negligence of all the defendants is compared with that of the plaintiff to make the same determination.
Sexual Abuse is a crime, and the perpetrators can be held criminal responsible and sent to jail. But, they can also be held civilly liable and forced to pay for the damages they cause to their victims. Although nothing can repair the trauma and pain survivors face on a daily basis, the law does provide for recovery for a wide array of categories including ongoing treatment and counseling, pain and suffering, and others.
Sadly, children are especially vulnerable to these predators. Incurring this type of trauma during a person’s formative years can have lasting consequences and require ongoing assistance. As Sexual Abuse lawyers, we work to help clients receive the compensation they are entitled to for this horrendous crime. Although nothing can take away what happened, we can at least help you obtain what relief the system does offer.
Unlike other types of injury, sexual abuse often includes feelings of shame, embarrassment, and fear. Telling one person can be terrifying, let along reliving the horrific experience in front of an entire court room. But holding abusers and their institutions accountable is important, and can sometimes help with the healing process.
But the decision to hire a sexual abuse lawyer and pursue a case is very personal, and has to be something you are comfortable with. Ultimately, the decision has to be yours and yours alone. If we can help by offering legal advise or with an explanation of the legal process, it would be our pleasure.
Survivors of sexual abuse face unique hurdles in seeking justice, but a dedicated and knowledgable attorney can make a major difference. If you or someone you know has been a victim of sexual abuse, please contact an attorney immediately. As with any injury case, the statute of limitations can prove to be an impossible hurdle to overcome if survivors wait too long.