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DWI Crash in a Rental Car: Am I on the Hook for Damages?

 Posted on May 05, 2023 in Uncategorized

A rental car is often necessary when traveling for work or on vacation. Sometimes it's fun to try out a new car, but often it can be challenging to navigate a new area in an unfamiliar car. But what happens if you're involved in a crash, and the police charge you with a DWI? The good news is that you don't have to figure this out alone. An expert in DWI defense, like attorney Doug Murphy, can help you from the beginning and protect your rights in the criminal justice system.

Possible DWI Charges

If you're involved in a crash, and the police arrest you for DWI, you may face additional charges on top of your DWI charge and be responsible for any property damage caused.

  1. First DWI: For a first DWI in Texas, a conviction can result in up to 180 days in jail, a suspended license, a $3,000 court-imposed fine, and a mandatory $3,000 administrative fine.
  2. Reckless Damage: Reckless damage happens if you commit an offense, without the owner's permission, that recklessly damages property. The charge is a third-degree misdemeanor in Texas, punishable by a fine of $500.
  3. Criminal Mischief: Criminal mischief happens when you "intentionally or knowingly" damage property. This could apply to a DWI crash if you were reasonably certain that driving while intoxicated could lead to a crash. This charge can be a misdemeanor or a felony in Texas, depending on the extent of the damage. A conviction can result in no jail time for some misdemeanors and up to ten years in prison for a third-degree felony.
  4. Intoxication Assault: A DWI crash resulting in a serious injury can lead to intoxication assault charges, a third-degree felony. A conviction can lead to two to ten years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines.
  5. Intoxication Manslaughter: If a DWI crash results in the death of another person, you could receive a second-degree intoxication manslaughter charge. A conviction is punishable by two to 20 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines.

DWI and Your Rental Agreement

When you rent a car, your rental agreement will cover the terms you must follow, and each agreement will vary from company to company. That's why you must read the agreement's terms before signing it. If you are arrested for DWI after a crash in a rental car, you will likely be responsible for all the related costs. If the car is impounded, you'll be responsible for the towing, storage, and extra daily charges to the rental agency. If the car needs repairs, you'll likely also be responsible for the repairs, including the time the car spends in the repair shop and not in service. If the car is totaled, you will likely be responsible for the cost of the car.

Driving While Intoxicated and Insurance

For insurance coverage, you likely have two options. If you purchased collision insurance through your rental agency, a DWI would likely void the coverage. However, you'll need to check the terms of the specific coverage you purchased. If you have comprehensive car insurance through a personal policy, you may have coverage for the accident, including damage to the rental car. But your insurance will likely not cover any extra charges you receive from the rental agency, including anything you owe when the car is out of service, additional rental fees or penalties, and towing. Again, your personal insurance policy's specific terms and coverage will prevail.

Can I Drive a Rental after a DWI?

However, having a DWI on your record may prevent you from renting a car in the future. All rental car agencies will check your driving record when you reserve or rent a car. Moreover, if you receive a DWI in a rental car after a crash, even if it is drivable, you won't be able to drive it. The police will either impound the car incidental to your arrest, or they may allow you to call someone to come pick it up. It is unlikely the rental company will agree to come pick it up.

Hire an Expert in Texas DWI Defense

If you've been involved in a crash in a rental car and the police charge you with DWI, both your DWI and your crash just become far more complicated. Whether you are on vacation, traveling for work, or just renting a car where you live, the consequences can be further reaching than you realize. That's why you need an experienced DWI defense attorney to evaluate your case and determine your options, both in the criminal justice system and with the rental company and their insurance.

Attorney Doug Murphy is Board Certified in both DWI Defense and Criminal Defense Law, making him an expert in these two complex and nuanced specialty areas of the law. Doug and his skilled team at the Doug Murphy Law Firm, P.C. have been representing people involved in DWIs in Texas for decades, and they can help you too. Moreover, the team is well-versed in handling complex DWI cases, negotiating with prosecutors, and zealously advocating for their clients in and out of the courtroom.

Doug is also a sought-after national DWI defense speaker and highly respected in the Texas legal community. Recently, U.S. News & World Report's Best Lawyers in America named Doug a "lawyer of the year" for Houston DWI Defense in 2021 and 2023. Doug also serves as Dean of the National College for DUI Defense held at Harvard Law School. He is a past president of the Harris County Criminal Lawyers Association and served on the board of directors for two terms. Doug was also a past co-chair of the DWI Committee for the Texas Criminal Lawyers Association.

In 2012, Doug received the Sharon Levine Unsung Hero Award from the Harris County Criminal Lawyers Association for exposing flaws in the Houston Police Department's blood alcohol testing vans. The HPD decommissioned the vans because of this exposure.

Doug and his team at the Doug Murphy Law Firm, P.C. have been protecting the rights of Texans accused of DWI for years, and they can help you too. Call the Doug Murphy Law Firm, P.C. today at 713-229-8333 or contact them online to schedule your consultation.

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