Laredo, TX — On November 30, 2018, a collision between two vehicles at a Laredo intersection caused injuries to 55-year-old Roberto Alejandro Chapa.

Laredo police say the crash happened shortly after 2:00 a.m. at the intersection of Seymour Avenue and Gustavus Street. Chapa’s Mazda 6 sedan and a Jeep Liberty driven by 25-year-old Maria Valdez collided in the intersection, sending the Jeep crashing into a telephone pole on one corner. Each driver told police at the scene that they had a green light, creating conflicting stories that the officer was unable to resolve with the information available at the time.

Mr. Chapa suffered non-incapacitating injuries in the crash and was taken to Laredo Medical Center for treatment. According to the officer’s report, neither Maria Valdez nor her passenger Sylvia Muniz, 19, were injured by the collision. A field sobriety test revealed that Ms. Valdez had a BAC of approximately .13 at the time of the crash.

The officer cited Valdez for driving without a license; she does not appear to have charged with anything related to her intoxication. Chapa was cited for failure to maintain liability insurance and displaying expired license plates on his vehicle.

Police continue to investigate the crash, including which driver was at fault.

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Commentary

We obtained a copy of the police report associated with this crash, which you may view below:

Robert Alejandro Chapa Crash Report, Page 1

Robert Alejandro Chapa Crash Report, Page 2

Having read about this crash and that one of the drivers was one-and-a-half times the legal limit for intoxication, I naturally find myself wondering where she got her alcohol. Given that the crash happened shortly after 2 a.m., which is the legally mandatory time for Texas bars to close up shop, it’s not a crazy stretch to think that Ms. Valdez could have been at a bar shortly before the accident. Unfortunately, in Laredo as everywhere else, many bars are only too willing to keep pouring drinks for a patron long after their tabs should have been shut down.

According to experts, a BAC between .12 and .15 is more than enough for an average person to feel nausea and suffer impaired judgment, perception, and comprehension. Furthermore, a person with a concentration this high has begun to experience problems with their sensor-motor coordination and slower reaction times, as well as impaired balance and vision. Basically, at a .13 Ms. Valdez had no business behind the wheel, and furthermore her behavior would have meant she would have seemed obviously intoxicated to the eyes of any trained server or bartender.

But why does it matter is she was obviously intoxicated? Because if a bar poured her too much alcohol and then sent her on her way, that bar may be partly responsible for her actions. Texas dram shop law says a bar that over-serves an obviously intoxicated customer could be liable if that person then harms someone as a direct result of their intoxication. If a DUI crash happens, victims and their families can hold the negligent alcohol provider accountable for contributing to the injury or death of their over-served patron.

None of this necessarily means that alcohol is the deciding factor in this particular crash. Even the officer at the scene didn’t issue citations related to Ms. Valdez’s intake–or even make a definitive decision about who was to blame–because the key dispute was about which person had a green light. However, which person is more likely to think they had a green light when it was actually red–a sober driver, or one who is 150% the legal BAC limit?

Food for thought.

–Grossman Law Offices

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