What Is Dram Shop Liability in Texas?

What Is Dram Shop Liability in Texas?

Dram shop liability allows victims of drunk driving accidents in Texas to hold institutions—including bars and restaurants—financially liable for their damages. Your lawyer may need to prove that the establishment overserved the motorist. If they can prove this, the bar, restaurant, or tavern may owe you compensation.

Establishments that serve alcoholic beverages are typically aware of dram shop laws. These establishments will almost certainly fight against compensating for a drunk driving accident. You may hire an experienced drunk driving accident lawyer to lead your case, as they will be familiar with dram shop laws and drunk driving accident lawsuits.

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What Types of Businesses Qualify as Dram Shops?

Under Texas law, dram shops are those that sell alcohol and where people consume alcohol.

What Is Dram Shop Liability in Texas?

The consumption aspect is important. Liquor stores and convenience stores do not typically qualify as dram shops, as they do not allow patrons to consume alcohol on premises.

Dram shops can include:

  • Restaurants
  • Bars
  • Taverns
  • Entertainment venues that sell alcohol, including movie theaters, concert venues, sporting events, bowling alleys, driving ranges, putt-putt courses, and arcades
  • Any other institution that sells alcohol for on-site consumption

On-site alcohol consumption has become increasingly common, meaning more opportunities for car crashes.

Private Parties Do Not Generally Fall Under Texas’ Dram Shop Laws

What if a person or organization hosts a party and continues to allow an intoxicated patron to consume alcohol, then leave in their car?

Private individuals and organizations do not typically fall under Texas’s dram shop laws. However, speak with a Texas drunk driving accident attorney to see if you can hold these parties liable for an accident.

When Is a Dram Shop Liable for a Drunk Driving Accident?

A dram shop is liable for a drunk driving accident when:

  1. Representatives of the dram shop (possibly including servers, managers, bartenders, and owners) should have known the patron was too intoxicated to consume more alcohol.
  2. Representatives of the dram shop continue to serve alcohol despite the patron’s apparent intoxication.
  3. The patron leaves the establishment and causes a motor vehicle accident.

Rates of drunk driving in Texas outpace the national average, meaning a higher-than-average number of drunk driving accidents. A countless number of those accidents happen because bars, restaurants, and other establishments overserve customers.

Any establishment that serves alcohol to its customers must:

  • Know the effects of alcohol on the body
  • Understand the life-threatening risks of drunk driving
  • Know the signs of impairment (and specifically train employees to spot these signs)
  • Adopt a zero-tolerance policy that requires employees to stop serving alcohol to intoxicated patrons 

If it is unclear whether a patron is intoxicated, the establishment should cut off their alcohol consumption. While unpopular and difficult to enforce, this policy can truly save lives.

Signs That an Establishment Should Stop Serving Alcohol to a Patron

When attorneys examine the facts of a drunk driving accident, they identify whether an establishment contributed to the collision.

A negligent dram shop will ignore or fail to appropriately act upon signs of intoxication, including:

  • Visible coordination issues, which may include spilling or knocking over drinks
  • Slurred words
  • Signs of tiredness
  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Slumped posture
  • Difficulty speaking in a coherent, on-topic manner

Representatives of the establishment may recognize that the patron is consuming alcohol at a rate that will lead to intoxication. If the patron has consumed a substantial amount of alcohol and shows signs of intoxication, this is a sure sign to discontinue service.

How Intoxication Increases the Risk of a Motor Vehicle Accident

While most people know that drunk driving is dangerous, they may not know exactly how intoxication affects a motorist.

A drunk motorist:

  • Takes longer to process their surroundings
  • Has slower reaction times (which may prevent them from braking or swerving to avoid a collision)
  • Has less control over the vehicle’s movements, which can cause veering out of one’s lane 
  • Is prone to impulsive and risky behavior, which may include running red lights and speeding
  • May fall asleep at the wheel or close their eyes for dangerous periods of time

Alcohol may have a different effect on different people. In some cases, an intoxicated motorist may speed. Others may fall asleep. The severity of intoxication may also affect the way that alcohol impairs a driver.

How a Personal Injury Lawyer May Prove That a Dram Shop Failed in Its Duty of Care?

Your attorney will adjust their approach to the specific circumstances of your case.

Some of the tactics your attorney may use to prove the dram shop’s negligence include:

  • Speaking with witnesses who were at the dram shop: Patrons and others who saw the motorist drinking alcohol may testify that the motorist was clearly intoxicated. Those who served the patron may even have to testify during your case. If it was clear to witnesses that the patron was intoxicated, it should have been clear to representatives of the dram shop, too.
  • Reviewing the dram shop’s history of overserving patrons: Your lawyer may seek to establish a pattern of the dram shop’s negligence. If the establishment has previously faced allegations of overserving patrons, this can support your case against the establishment.
  • Hiring experts to testify about the dram shop’s failures: Expert testimony can be powerful in a drunk driving accident case. An expert may testify about the signs of intoxication the patron displayed and the failures of the dram shop that led to the drunk driving accident. 
  • Presenting biological evidence from after the accident: If the drunk motorist gave blood or breath samples after the collision, your lawyer will obtain these samples. Intoxication may constitute clear-cut evidence that the establishment overserved the motorist.
  • Citing the police report and criminal proceedings: A police report may serve as further evidence that the motorist was drunk at the time of the accident. If police charge the motorist with driving while intoxicated, this is even more evidence that they consumed too much alcohol. Such evidence may substantiate the fact that the dram shop overserved them.

Personal injury attorneys know how to establish dram shop liability. Leave this process to a lawyer whose experience may benefit your case.

Proving Negligence in a Dram Shop Liability Case

Drunk driving accident attorneys seek to prove negligence in every case they handle.

In a dram shop liability case, proving negligence generally means:

  • Establishing that the dram shop had a duty of care: A duty of care requires a person or institution to act reasonably. When it comes to a dram shop, this duty of care includes serving alcohol responsibly. 
  • Proving that the dram shop breached its duty of care: If your lawyer believes that the dram shop overserved a motorist, it believes it violated its duty of care. Your lawyer will use all available evidence to prove this breach of duty of care.
  • Showing that the dram shop’s breach of duty of care caused you harm: Your lawyer will tie the breach of duty of care to your accident. Your attorney may prove causation by proving that the dram shop overserved the motorist and that the motorist caused your accident.
  • Establishing the specific damages resulting from the dram shop’s negligence: Lastly, your lawyer will illustrate the harm you suffered from the drunk driving accident. This likely includes both economic and non-economic damages.

Let a lawyer lead your fight for justice. Whether or not the intoxicated motorist faces criminal charges, a personal injury attorney will work to ensure you receive the financial settlement you deserve.

Is the Dram Shop Solely Liable for a Drunk Driving Accident in Texas?

While a dram shop may be liable for your accident-related damages, they are likely not the only liable party.

Any motorist who drinks, drives, and causes an accident is generally liable for the harm they cause others. In some cases, the drunk motorist is the only party liable for the victim’s damages.

In some circumstances, a third defendant may be liable for a drunk driving accident. Say, for instance, the drunk motorist was drinking at a work function hosted at a bar, then left and caused an accident. The motorist, their employer, and the bar can all bear liability for the accident victim’s damages.

Should I File a Lawsuit Against a Dram Shop (or Any Other Liable Party)?

Drunk drivers in Texas often face criminal charges. However, the criminal justice process does not provide direct benefit to the victim of the accident. Accident victims often turn to the civil justice system to address their damages.

You may file a lawsuit against one or more parties (including a dram shop) because:

  • You have financial expenses that you need compensation for
  • You have suffered physically, psychologically, and emotionally because of the drunk driving accident
  • You want to hold liable parties accountable for the harm they have caused you

A drunk driving accident lawsuit can provide financial relief and a sense of justice for victims of drunk drivers (and the dram shops that contribute to drunk driving accidents).

What Damages Should Victims of Drunk Drivers Seek Compensation For?

Every auto accident can cause severe injuries and related damages. Drunk driving accidents can be especially serious, as drunk drivers engage in risky behaviors that cause high-speed collisions.

Some of the damages victims of drunk drivers often suffer include:

Pain and Suffering

Civil cases often include a category of non-economic damages known as pain and suffering.

These damages may include:

  • Pain from injuries (including both acute and chronic pain)
  • Psychological distress
  • Emotional anguish
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Lost quality of life
  • Difficult sleeping
  • Depression
  • Anxiety

Each accident victim endures different challenges. Your lawyer will work with doctors and mental health professionals to identify the nature of your pain and suffering.

Medical Expenses

You should receive compensation covering all of your accident-related medical bills. The more serious your injuries are, the more costly your medical expenses.

Loss of Income

If you can’t work because of accident-related injuries, you may lose:

  • Your income (whether you earn an hourly wage, per-assignment rate, or salary)
  • Performance bonuses
  • Benefits
  • Opportunities for promotions

If you return to work but earn less than before the accident, your lawyer will calculate your loss of earning power. If your injuries disabled you, your lawyer will determine the lifelong cost of your professional damages.

Vehicle Damage

If your vehicle suffered damage during the accident, your lawyer will include the cost of repairs in your case. If the vehicle was totaled, your lawyer will identify the cost of a suitable replacement vehicle.

A Loved One’s Death

When drunk drivers cause fatal accidents, they must be accountable for the immense cost of their negligence.

A dram shop may also need to pay for:

  • Funeral costs
  • Burial or cremation costs
  • Loss of consortium, which can include the loss of a spouse’s companionship, the loss of a parent’s support, and other non-economic value the decedent provided their loved ones
  • Loss of the decedent’s income
  • Pain and suffering (including grief)
  • Medical expenses
  • Any other economic or non-economic harm caused by the fatal accident

The cost of a life is immense. A dram shop, drunk driver, and other liable parties must compensate victims fairly for the harm that their negligence causes.

How a Drunk Driving Accident Attorney Can Help You

A personal injury lawyer will work to hold a dram shop responsible for your damages. Your lawyer will also seek compensation from a drunk driver and any other liable party.

Stewart Guss, Attorney for Drunk Driving Accident in Texas
Stewart Guss, Texas Drunk Driving Accident Lawyer

The goal is to obtain a settlement covering all of your damages, and a lawyer may work toward this goal by:

  • Documenting and calculating all of your damages
  • Securing evidence of liable parties’ negligence (including a dram shop overserving a patron)
  • Negotiating a settlement on your behalf
  • Completing all case-related paperwork
  • Managing all case-related communications
  • Taking your case to court, if necessary

Don’t wait to hire a lawyer. They will begin your case immediately. You can focus on your health while your lawyer fights for a fair financial recovery.