The family of a woman killed by another driver has filed a wrongful death lawsuit, but because the police failed to fully investigate, the plaintiff's attorney could find the case more difficult to win.
The 58-year-old Houston grandmother was driving home on U.S. Highway 290 on the evening of September 11th when a 5,000-pound Ford F-150 truck came crashing down on top of her SUV. The driver of the pickup, a 40-year-old principal at a local high school, and his passenger had been at a tavern earlier in the night.
Every day in the United State 28 people die in motor vehicle crashes that involve alcohol-impaired drivers, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This amounts to one death every 53 minutes. The annual cost of alcohol-related crashes totals more than $44 billion.
Initially, the Texas truck driver struck an impact attenuator, a barrier also known as a “crash cushion” designed to reduce the damage to structures, vehicles, and motorists resulting from a collision. Impact attenuators are designed to absorb the colliding vehicle's kinetic energy. However, the truck struck the barrier with such force, it caused the vehicle to launch into the air and slam down on the victim's SUV. The driver and passenger of the truck received only minor injuries in the crash.
Now the family of the woman, who had four children and two grandchildren, wants to know why the driver was not tested for blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) since he admitted to being at a bar before the crash.
In Texas, a person is legally intoxicated and may be arrested and charged with Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) with a .08 BAC, according to the Texas Department of Transportation. However, a person also can be considered intoxicated if he or she is impaired due to alcohol or drugs regardless of BAC.
Two Houston police officers at the scene claimed the driver did not look intoxicated, yet when they asked him to take a field sobriety test he refused. When the officers asked a county assistant district attorney to seek a warrant to compel the driver to take a blood test to determine BAC, the attorney claimed he had “insufficient probable cause” for a warrant since the officers said the suspect did not appear drunk. No criminal charges have been filed against the driver. Now, the driver's attorney says construction hazards, not drunk driving, were responsible for the crash.
A substantial number of drivers arrested for DUI refuse the BAC test, thereby reducing the likelihood that they will be convicted and potentially increasing the number of high-risk multiple offenders contributing to alcohol-related crashes, according to the National Institutes of Health. There is strong evidence that refusing to take a BAC test significantly compromises the arrest, prosecution and sentencing of DUI suspects and the overall enforcement of DUI laws in the United States.
In some counties across the country, whenever there is a traffic fatality, a full investigation is done, including testing a driver's BAC. However, that is not the law in Harris County, which includes Houston. In Harris and other such counties, a determination of a person's sobriety can be based on the judgment of a law enforcement officer instead of a scientific test of BAC.
If you have been injured or a loved one has died as a result of reckless -- and possible drunken -- driving, you may be entitled to compensation. Call the offices of trial attorneys Charles Gilman and Briggs Bedigian at 800-529-6162 or contact them online. The firm handles cases in Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Washington, D.C.