Archive for February, 2013

Texas Driver Responsibility Program Causing Big Problems

In 2003, Texas passed a Driver Responsibility program in an effort to deter Texas residents from driving drunk, driving without insurance, driving with no license or committing certain other violations. The aim of the program was to impose large surcharges on drivers convicted of various offenses in order to act as a deterrent from engaging in dangerous driving behaviors. The surcharges were on top of standard fines, penalties and punishments.

Unfortunately, the Driver Responsibility Program has had some unintended consequences which may have actually made the roads of Texas less safe. Lawmakers are currently looking at what to do about the Program and about the problems created. Our San Antonio, TX accident attorneys hope that they are able to make a decision that makes Texas a safer place to drive.

The Driver Responsibility Program Problem

When the driver responsibility program was signed into law, it created a system whereby drivers convicted of designated traffic offenses would pay thousands of dollars in fines over a three-year period of time. The revenue generated was intended to support highway projects and to be paid to hospital trauma centers.

Unfortunately, according to Dallas News, more than 1.3 million drivers in Texas who were supposed to pay their surcharges are either unable to do so or are unwilling to do so. The problem that this creates is much larger than the fact that the state is simply not getting the revenue expected. The issue is that drivers who have not paid their fines have their driver’s licenses automatically suspended.

The result is that many of the more than one million residents who haven’t paid their fines may be driving without a driver’s license. In fact, the Dallas News article suggests that as many as 60 percent of all of the drivers who have been assessed a surcharge have lost their driver’s licenses as a result of nonpayment of the large fines.

Other data also indicates that the law isn’t working very well. For example, thousands of defendants who were accused of driving while intoxicated requested a trial in order to avoid the huge DWI surcharge. This led to prosecutors being forced to accept plea bargains for lesser offenses, such as reckless driving or public intoxication, instead of plea bargains for DWI convictions. The DWI conviction rate went down for drunk driving offenses and the dismissal rate for these offenses went up as a result.

Texas Streets May Be Less Safe

It seems clear from the data that the Driver Responsibility Program has not been a success and has had many negative unintended consequences.

More driver’s without licenses, for example, means that there are more drivers who cannot get auto insurance (you need a license to get insurance to drive). Uninsured drivers typically cannot pay for damages they cause if they are responsible for a crash. This leaves victims uncompensated. Further, a driver who gets into an accident with no license may be more likely to hit and run.

For all of these reasons, lawmakers are reconsidering the Driver Responsibility Program. Ten years after it passed, it is about time to take another look.

If you’ve been injured in an accident, contact the Herrera Law Firm at 800-455-1054 for a confidential consultation.

MADD Pushes for Changes to Texas DUI Laws

According to, Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) visited the Texas State Capital in mid-February as part of their efforts to push for some reforms to Texas drunk driving laws. The article spoke with mothers who had visited the Capital and who had suffered personal tragedy including one woman who lost her 16-year-old son to a drunk driving crash.

The stories told by the mothers are powerful. They aim to urge lawmakers to adapt reforms that could have a big impact on reducing DWIs in the state of Texas. Our San Antonio, TX personal injury attorneys support their efforts and hope lawmakers will carefully consider proposals that can have an impact on drunk driving accidents and fatalities.

The Proposed Changes to Texas DWI Law

There are two important reforms that Mothers Against Drunk Driving are pushing Texas lawmakers to adopt. The first is a law permitting statewide sobriety checkpoints. The second is a law that would require all first-time drunk driving offenders to have an ignition interlock device installed in their vehicles.

A Texas Republican Representative, State Rep. Bill Callegari, has already authored a bill, House Bill 260, which would impose the ignition interlock device requirement. Callegari authored the bill after a friend and a constituent lost their son in a drunk driving accident.  No bill has yet been filed regarding statewide mandates on sobriety checkpoints but such a bill could originate in the Texas senate.

How the Proposed New Laws Would Reduce Drunk Driving

Both statewide sobriety checkpoints and mandated use of ignition interlock devices for first time offenders could have a significant impact on the number of drunk driving accidents and deaths within the state.

Sobriety checkpoints allow law enforcement to set up checkpoints in a targeted area in order to identify potential drunk drivers. The checkpoints can serve as a deterrent since people might be less likely to drive drunk if they know that there is a good chance they’ll encounter a law enforcement checkpoint. They also make it easier for police to identify drunk drivers before they become involved in a crash and hurt or kill themselves or others.

Texas is one of a minority of states that does not have sobriety checkpoints in place already on a statewide level, and some believe that this contributes to making Texas the worst in the nation for drunk driving. While others argue that such checkpoints may be a violation of constitutional protections against unlawful search and seizure, the Supreme Court has already ruled them constitutional.

Ignition interlock devices, on the other hand, would stop a person from being able to start his car when he was drunk. The devices require an offender to blow into a breath test in the dash before starting the vehicle. If an offender wasn’t able to show his BAC was below the limit, he would be unable to drive and thus any accidents he might have caused in his intoxicated state would be avoided.

Both these laws, therefore, could have a significant impact on reducing drunk driving accidents and deaths if they pass. Hopefully, lawmakers will listen to MADD and make the smart, safe choice.

If you’ve been injured in an accident, contact the Herrera Law Firm at 800-455-1054 for a confidential consultation.

Texas Woman Arrested after Hit & Run Crash

According to My San, a North Texas teacher was arrested in January after a hit-and-run accident that led to the death of a six-year-old boy. The teacher turned herself in to law enforcement and has been charged with manslaughter as well as failure to stop and render aid.

Our San Antonio, TX accident attorneys are glad that the teacher did the responsible thing and turned herself in to the the police so that the family of the young boy who was killed can have closure. Hit and run accidents are problematic for many reasons, including the fact that it is difficult or even impossible to hold the responsible party civilly and criminally liable for his or her actions.

The Texas Hit and Run Accident

The 53-year-old North Texas teacher who was involved in the hit and run accident reportedly ran a red light and struck the six-year-old victim. The young victim’s mother and sister watched as the boy was hit by the car.

Running a red light is, of course, illegal and for good reason – it can cause a fatal accident. In this case, the crash was a pedestrian accident that led to the death of a child, but running a red light can also cause a crash with another vehicle that is turning or proceeding straight at a T-intersection.

Regardless of whether the crash involves a car striking a pedestrian or a car hitting another car, the driver who ran the red light is expected to stop and help those who were hurt. In fact, under Texas law, anyone who is involved in a crash that may have caused injuries must stop and render assistance to the victims. Texas drivers who are involved in a crash that causes only property damage are still expected to stop and provide their name and contact information to the person whose property has been damaged.

Because the Texas teacher both ran the red light and failed to stop, she broke several Texas laws and now must face the consequences. The fact that the accident resulted in the death of a victim also elevated the charges from injury to a child to manslaughter.

Hit and Run Accidents Complicate Matters for Victims

In this hit and run accident, the person responsible turned herself in. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Often, a person who hits and runs never comes forward and, in some cases, law enforcement is not able to solve the crime and track down the responsible party.

When a victim is involved in a hit and run, there is a lot riding on whether the perpetrator of the crime will be found. If the driver responsible for the accident who committed the crime of fleeing the scene is not identified, then the victim is left with little recourse.

Not only will the victim not get to see the person who hurt him stand trial and be punished but the victim will also be unable to file any type of civil lawsuit to obtain compensation for injuries. In such cases, car accident victims will have few options but to seek whatever compensation they can under an uninsured motorist policy that may be part of their own automobile insurance coverage.

If you’ve been injured in an accident, contact the Herrera Law Firm at 800-455-1054 for a confidential consultation.

San Antonio School Bus Involved in Collision

According to a February 12 article on My San, a school bus for the Clinton Public School District was involved in a two-vehicle accident on Tuesday around 9 a.m. The accident occurred while high school students from the Clinton District were on board, and police are currently investigating the cause. Thankfully, no students were immediately reported injured in the crash.

Our San Antonio, TX accident attorneys were glad to hear that there were no injuries in this collision. School bus accidents are often very serious crashes because there are typically many vulnerable young passengers aboard the bus who could be hurt in a collision. While everyone was able to avoid injury this time, we believe that parents and students should understand their rights in a school bus crash in case an injury does occur.

Your Rights in a School Bus Accident

If you or your child was a passenger on a school bus that became involved in a collision, it is essential to identify the cause of the crash. The bus passengers, of course, are never to blame for the accident since they are dependent upon the driver of the bus to deliver them safely to their destination. The crash may be caused by either the driver of the bus or by another vehicle that negligently or irresponsibly causes the bus to crash.

Once the responsible party or parties responsible for a  school bus accident have been identified, the victims or their parents can take legal action to recover compensation for any injuries. The compensation available can include coverage for 100 percent of medical costs arising from the bus accident.

Monetary damages for pain and suffering and emotional distress are also available. Victims and family members can even be compensated if there were lost financial earnings or if a reduction in earning potential occurred, and surviving family members can make a claim for wrongful death if the school bus accident has fatalities.

While these damages should be available to victims or family members from either the school bus driver or the other party responsible for the crash, there is an important caveat. School bus drivers are often government employees, and the school district they work for is often a government agency.

Government employees enjoy certain protections from immunity for actions they take in the official capacity of performing government work. Government agencies and entities, including public school districts, are also provided with special immunity protections. This does not mean that it is impossible to take legal action after a school bus crash or that parents cannot sue the driver or district. In many other cases, buses and drivers are hired through a contracting company — or a maintenance contractor might share responsibility.

Thus, the process becomes more legally complex. There are more legal considerations after a school bus accident than with many other types of wrecks.

If you’ve been injured in an accident, contact the Herrera Law Firm at 800-455-1054 for a confidential consultation.