In a recent tragic episode, three people were killed and two dozen injured after a car plowed into a substantial crowd gathered near an Austin nightclub while the South By Southwest festival was in progress. The driver of the speeding car was allegedly trying to evade the police.
The alleged facts of the situation began just after midnight, when police attempted to stop the driver when he was stopped by a gas station situated near Interstate 35. Then 21-year-old was Rashad Charjuan Owens who was from Killeen, Texas — whom police suspected had been drunk — got into his car and fled authorities. However, Owens went the wrong way down 9th Street in Austin’s downtown. He then blasted through barricades set up by the police and made a right turn onto Red River Street. In the process, he struck several festival goers who had been standing near the Mohawk nightclub following concert at South By Southwest. The car may have been traveling at speeds up to 70 miles per hour.
Police were finally able to reach Owens after his car ran into a taxi and was forced to stop. Owens then allegedly tried to flee the scene, but the police caught him and used Tasers to disable him in a nearby parking lot.
The damage he caused extended along two blocks of Red River Street, from 9th Street to 11th Street. During the rampage, Owens drove over a 35-year old man on a bicycle, as well as a woman riding a moped. The impact killed them both. In addition, another 23 victims were taken to three local hospitals, including two teenagers. One more victim died while in the hospital, while one remained in critical condition, and another three have serious injuries.
Owens will likely be charged with at least two counts of capital murder and 23 (or possibly more) counts of aggravated assault with a motor vehicle. His previous criminal history includes a 2012 criminal trespass conviction. Meanwhile, those in charge of the South By Southwest festival state that its events will continue as planned unless a specific concert venue makes the decision to cancel. The police, however, closed down several streets in order to continue the investigation.
In addition to criminal charges, Owens may also face civil lawsuits from injured festival goers and/or their families. However, they may not have much luck collecting a monetary award, given that — due to his age and circumstances — Owens likely does not have many assets. In situations like this, injured parties might look to sue anyone else who might have been involved who might have deeper pockets. For instance, if earlier that night, Owens was served alcohol at an establishment that knew he was impaired, but let him drive off, the establishment could conceivably be held liable. However, since 2007, that has become tougher in Texas: the state Supreme Court ruled that any bar that knowingly served an intoxicated person was responsible only for the percentage of damages that a jury assesses to the bar. Not only is percentage of damages somewhat difficult to assess, but also it means that injured parties are too often stuck relying on the driver’s limited liability insurance rather than the bar’s more expansive insurance coverage for payment.
If you or a loved one has suffered due to an injury in a car accident caused by another driver, you may be entitled to compensation, including medical expenses, loss of wages, and pain and suffering. The experienced San Antonio personal injury attorneys at Carabin & Shaw may be able to help. Call our office for more information at 1-800-862-1260.