Everyone knows and agrees that we need to hold drunk drivers responsible for their actions. If you drink, get behind the wheel, and then injure someone in a car accident, you should face both criminal and civil justice. My firm has been handling injury cases caused by drunk drivers for many years. It seems clear that we can go after a drunk driver for injuries they cause – we can and we do. Sometimes we are also able to pursue a claim against the bar that served the drunk driver.
In Texas, it is illegal for a bartender or server to serve alcohol to someone that is obviously intoxicated. If a bar or restaurant does so, they may be held liable for injuries caused by the drunk patron under the Texas “Dram Shop” laws. In the 1980s, the nation’s attention was drawn to the damage being done by drunk drivers. Organizations like Mothers Against Drunk Driving (“MADD”) raised awareness and helped establish a framework of criminal and civil laws to help bring drunk drivers to justice. They also raised awareness of the fact that the bar that served the alcohol may share some responsibility as well.
Think about it – bars and restaurants make money by selling alcoholic drinks. The more of them they sell, the more money they make. Because there is a direct incentive to sell as much alcohol as possible to increase profits, the Texas Legislature decided that restaurants and bars should be liable under certain circumstances when they over serve and over sell alcohol to someone who is already obviously intoxicated. The Texas Dram Shop laws establish liability against bars and restaurants when they over serve a patron, and that drunk drivers goes out and injures either themselves or someone else in a car accident as a result of their excessive intoxication.
There are two important things to realize about the Dram Shop laws. First, it is possible sometimes to pursue a Dram Shop case in a single vehicle accident. In this case, the injured party or their survivors could bring a Dram Shop case against the bar in which they were served. The second important issue to keep in mind is that Dram Shop liability is still subject to the limitations of comparative responsibility in Texas. For example, in that single car accident described above, if the jury found that the drunk driver was more than half responsible for the wreck, then the bar or restaurant would be absolved of legal liability. There have been many changes and important cases decided in recent years in regard to the Texas Dram Shop laws. For this reason, it is important to get the advice of an experienced and qualified lawyer to see if Dram Shop liability would apply in a given situation.
If you or a loved one have been injured by a drunk driver, call Houston Personal Injury Attorney Stewart J. Guss for a free consultation at 281-664-6500 now. Stewart has been representing victims of drunk driving accidents for 20 years in Katy, Tomball, Cypress, The Woodlands, Spring, Houston and all over Texas. Stewart can help you go after EVERY entity responsible for your damages, and there is no fee unless he wins your case.