The first two things you should do after a vehicular accident

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A good rule of thumb: If you get into any kind of car accident, you should get checked promptly by medical personnel. You may not think you are seriously injured, but you could be. Evidence disappears fast and the longer you wait, the harder it gets to prove to insurance companies that your injuries should be properly covered.

Another good rule of thumb: If you were driving under the influence, get with a DWI lawyer promptly. Do so even if you think you could not possibly be held responsible.

Different jurisdictions have different laws,and different scenarios have different burdens of proof. Some likely consequences for driving under the influence and being caught include fines, suspension of your driver’s license and jail time. If the reason you were caught is that you got into an accident, the consequences can ramp up from there. If someone died, in some places this will be classified as felony manslaughter and can include very severe consequences.

In addition to criminal charges filed by the state, you can be subjected to a civil lawsuit by parties who were materially harmed. So, after being hit with fines, jail time and other legal consequences, you may find you are not done. There may still be more trouble to come from this single incident.

Civil cases and criminal cases have different legal standards with regards to the burden of proof. So being found “not guilty” in criminal court is no guarantee that you won’t find yourself paying restitution following being sued in a civil case.

If you are sued and lose the case, you may find yourself responsible for three kinds of damages:

  • Economic
  • Non-economic
  • Punitive

Economic damages include quantifiable financial losses, such as lost wages, medical bills,and damage to their vehicle. Non-economic damages include disfigurement, mental anguish and pain,and suffering. Punitive damages are intended to be a deterrent to wrongdoing. They can far exceed the other sums.

Your insurance may cover both economic and non-economic damages, but it is unlikely to cover punitive damages. The entire point of punitive damages is to make you suffer and think twice before you do something like that again. Being able to just bill your insurance company for it defeats the purpose of punitive damages.

In Texas, legal precedent suggests that insurance can cover such damages in some cases, such as workers’ compensation, but not in others, such as DWI cases. There are guidelines for how much can be charged. The sums can be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars under those guidelines. If felony manslaughter is part of the picture, those guidelines may not apply. There may be no effective cap on the amount you will be expected to pay in restitution.

If you get into a vehicular accident, seek immediate medical attention, if you think you were not injured. Soft tissue injuries, which can include brain injuries, can sneak up on you.

If you were one of the driver’s, especially if you were driving under the influence, you should also promptly seek legal counsel. Don’t wait until you get formally charged to “lawyer up.” You want to know what you are likely facing, and you want them in the loop as early as possible to mitigate the situation.


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