Victim on his way to work; driver on his way home from drinking
Denton County jail Officer Jim Terry was riding his motorcycle to work on Sunday when he was hit by a car. The driver of that car, Oscar Salmaron, then sped off.
Terry’s colleagues at the Denton County Sheriffs Department quickly arrested 42 year-old Salmaron. No surprise, he was drunk.
The intoxicated man was also responsible for another hit-and-run crash just before barreling into Terry’s motorcycle.
Terry remains in critical condition, with multiple fractures and other extensive injuries that will require surgeries and extensive rehabilitation, according to a GoFundMe account set up by his coworkers at the Denton County jail.
Salmaron was brought to the Denton County jail on charges of intoxication assault with a vehicle causing serious bodily injury and fleeing the scene of a crash. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has also placed a hold on him.
On a related subject, I just met a young man to give him his substantial settlement proceeds. He was injured by an intoxicated driver who had spent all afternoon watching his LSU football team play in a bowl game.
In addition, I was just called to represent a young woman critically injured by her drunk driver in Dallas this weekend. She is still in ICU.
These stories — all too routine around Dallas-Fort Worth these days — anger me.
Hit-and-run and DWI penalties in Texas
Salmaron is the poster child for why drivers flee crashes. Usually, the driver is intoxicated, has no insurance and/or is avoiding an arrest warrant.
Fortunately most of these drivers get caught. They take that chance, however, figuring they may get off scot-free and at least prosecutors can’t prove they were drunk. In the past, the gamble often paid off. Drunk drivers who seriously injured or killed their victims would receive substantially lesser prison time for a hit-and-run conviction than they would on an intoxication manslaughter or intoxication assault charge.
The tide turned when the Texas legislature passed a law several years ago that imposed the same penalties on hit-and-run drivers as drunk drivers. In essence, the law removes at least one incentive for taking off rather than trying to administer assistance.
An intoxication assault is a third degree felony that carries up to $10,000 in fines, 180 to 2-year driver’s license suspension and two to 10 years imprisonment. Had Salmaron been caught too late to test his blood alcohol concentration (BAC), he would nonetheless face the same penalties for fleeing the scene.
Recovering from drunk and fleeing drivers
Berenson Injury Law has helped many victims of car and motorcycle crashes recover their damages over the past 36 years.
Three and a half decades later, I’m more compelled than ever to fight for people like Jim Terry, this young man and woman, and the countless others who suffer tremendous losses because of the grossly negligent conduct of others.
We’ve got to stop this epidemic of drunk driving. Our lives depend on it.