• May 03, 2022

Clarissa Gonzalez Injured in Single-Vehicle Accident on US-281 in Jim Wells County, TX

Jim Wells County, TX -- April 16, 2022, 19-year-old Clarissa Gonzalez was injured in a single-vehicle accident on U.S. Highway 281 in Jim Wells County.

Authorities say the incident happened around 12:05 a.m. on US-281 near County Road 116. Preliminary investigation suggests Gonzalez was driving a Chrysler 300 north on the highway. She later told investigators she swerved off the road to avoid a deer that ran into her path. The car ran off the left side of the highway and down into a ditch. It hit a concrete culvert, spun out, and overturned, coming to rest on its left side.

Gonzalez suffered serious injuries in the crash. Investigators noted a belief that she may have been under the influence of an intoxicant at the time and drew blood for testing.

No further information is currently available.

Commentary on Clarissa Gonzalez Accident on US-281 in Jim Wells County

The injured victim in this crash said a deer in the road made her go off-course. I have no particular reason to doubt that, though police may not have been entirely convinced if they think intoxication was an issue as well.

Impaired driving is a problem that should be addressed any time it's suspected. Obviously drunk drivers pose a risk to public safety, but there's also another aspect to it people don't consider as often: Whether a local business is making a habit of sending over-intoxicated customers out its doors and onto the roads. That illegal behavior is important to identify and deal with under Texas dram shop law.

Clarissa Gonzalez Injured in Single-Vehicle Accident on US-281 in Jim Wells County, TX

Not everyone knows about dram shop law or how it applies to drunk driving accidents. Under dram shop law licensed alcohol vendors (bar, restaurant, nightclub, store, etc) are prohibited from selling or serving alcohol to an obviously intoxicated customer. If they do so--and far too many of them keep pouring long past the point they should stop--then they may be legally accountable for any injuries that customer causes or suffers while under the influence. Dram shop is an important tool for ensuring law-breaking businesses face consequences for over-service, while also giving injured victims the right to seek help with their recovery from those businesses.

I am of course aware that the driver in this case was under 21 and the source of her alcohol should be identified simply to know whether someone gave her alcohol when they shouldn't have. In most cases it's against the law to do so, but a friend providing her with drinks at a private residence isn't the same situation as a business selling them directly to her. It's an important distinction to make when hammering out the details of what happened before the crash.

With all that said, though, alcohol is still only a suspicion in the Jim Wells County crash. Tests were presumably done but their results haven't been released, and in the meantime I'm not in any way saying I know whether impairment played a part. That obviously would have to be clarified before anyone looks for possible negligent over-service. In the meantime police shouldn't ignore other possibilities like wet roads, vehicular malfunctions, or yes--even a deer's surprise appearance. The most important thing is to uncover the whole truth of the accident. If there are other steps to take, learning that will largely depend on what the facts are.

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