• January 18, 2017

Marina Romero Killed, 4 Injured in Austin, TX, DWI Accident

Austin, TX -- January 15, 2017, Marina Renee Romero was killed, four other people injured, after an accident involving an intoxicated driver.

Austin-Travis County officials were called out to the two-vehicle accident scene at around 2:30 a.m. on the Pond Springs Road exit ramp of US Highway 183.

According to preliminary investigations, a Chrysler and a Jeep were both on the exit ramp at the time. In events that are not clear, the Chrysler, driven by Julio Bernal-Morales, crashed into the back of the Jeep. Due to this collision, the front passenger of the Chrysler, 43-year-old Romero, was killed.

Bernal-Morales and two children from his vehicle, one of which was his son, had non-life-threatening injuries and were taken to Round Rock Medical Center for treatment. The driver of the Jeep, Cassandra Willich, had a serious injury and was also taken to the hospital for treatment.

Authorities determined that Bernal-Morales had a BAC of .142 percent following the wreck. He was placed under arrest and now faces charges of intoxication manslaughter and intoxicated with a child passenger.

Investigations are currently ongoing.

Map of the Area

Commentary

This truly is a terrible accident, and it comes with the same frustration as all drunk driving accidents that it could easily have been prevented. If the charges brought about in this case are true, then surely those responsible will be held responsible for their actions. Something that many people don't realize, however, is that there are most likely two parties responsible here: the drunk driver and the business which served him alcohol.

Considering this accident happened just after 2:00 a.m., it's not unreasonable to assume the driver was drinking at a bar or a restaurant prior to the accident--after all, bars close at 2:00 a.m. in Texas, so a lot of our drunk driving accidents happen around this time. If that happens to be the case, then this accident could fall under an area of wrongful death law called Dram Shop Law.

In Texas, Dram Shop Law states that a business which over-serves alcohol to an obviously intoxicated customer who, as a result of their intoxication, hurts others or themselves, then the business can be held liable for damages. While many people see this as unfair to bars that are just doing normal business, keep in mind that most of the dram shop cases we deal with aren't just a guy drinking two beers and hitting a light pole. In most of the dram cases our firm has done, these customers were served upwards of 10 drinks before getting behind the wheel of a car.

The idea behind Dram Shop Law revolves around the idea that as licensed sellers of alcohol, bars, restaurants, and other businesses serve as a line of defense between drunk drivers and the general public. They are held to a higher standard by our state laws to handle the substance responsibly even when others may not. They know how many drinks it takes to get someone intoxicated, and they owe a duty to our community not to exceed this amount.

By over-serving alcohol to an obviously intoxicated customer, not only are they failing in their duty to handle alcohol responsibly, they are breaking the law. Period. Drunk drivers are held accountable for their actions, so why wouldn't we hold bars accountable for theirs? By allowing victims and their families to pursue compensation from a bar, Texas law provides a system for holding these negligent businesses accountable for their wrong doings.

--Grossman Law Offices

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