Posted in: by Anderson Injury Lawyers

If you or someone you love suffered injuries in an alcohol-related motor vehicle accident, you may be entitled to seek compensation under the Texas Dram Shop Act contained in the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Code.

This law aims to hold the liquor license holder (like a bar or restaurant) responsible for any injuries that result from over-serving alcohol to a drunk person. This means that if you got drunk and hurt yourself – or an intoxicated person injured you – you can make a claim against the bar or restaurant that served the alcohol.

What Is a Dram Shop?

A dram shop is a place where alcohol is served and sold, such as a bar or restaurant. These places are responsible for meeting the legal requirements of serving their customers with the appropriate level of alcohol, as stated in Texas law.

Any amount served past a certain legal limit can place the establishment serving the alcohol responsible for contributing to the accident.

Dram Shops Can Lose Their Liquor License

Furthermore, suppose the bartender or server knowingly provided alcohol to someone who caused a car accident. In that case, this can be a precedent for the whole establishment to come under legal review. This could include removing their license to serve alcohol.

In Texas, drunk driving accidents are not tolerated, which is why those found responsible for serving unsafe amounts of alcohol may have legal consequences against them.

Texas Dram Shop Laws & Drunk Driving Accidents

Drunk driving victims make most dram shop claims. However, these laws can also benefit passengers in a drunk driver’s car or the drunk driver themselves. (For example, if the intoxicated driver suffers injuries in a single-vehicle crash due to their intoxication).

The purpose of dram shop law is to discourage drinking establishments from serving customers who obviously exceeded the legal drunk-driving limit. If a bartender continues to serve a patron who is already intoxicated, they are knowingly and consciously doing so, and their lapse in judgment means they can be held responsible.

Texas Dram Shop Liability Laws

Section 2.02 (Causes of Action) of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Code states that an injured person can bring a claim against a bar, restaurant, or other business that sells alcohol provided that:

  • It was visibly evident that the drunken person was intoxicated at the time they were served alcohol
  • Intoxication was a proximate cause of the incident that resulted in injuries
  • Proving that intoxication was the cause of the accident or injury is usually straightforward, particularly in DWI car wrecks, where a police officer will often test for breath and blood alcohol content levels and then bring criminal charges against the intoxicated motorist.

The hard part of making a dram shop claim is proving that the bartender served the intoxicated person alcohol even after they knew the person was drunk.

How to Prove Negligence in a Dram Shop Claim

To prove that the customer was “obviously intoxicated to the extent that he presented a clear danger to himself and others,” Texas courts say that the bartender (manager, waiter, etc.) doesn’t actually have to witness drunken behavior.

Instead, if you can prove that the bartender should have seen drunken behavior (that the drunk person was there for a while, easily visible and obviously drunk), that’s a satisfactory defense.

Evidence Used in a Dram Shop Claim

Witnesses can testify to someone’s apparent intoxication. Other evidence includes:

  • Chemical blood alcohol concentration (BAC) test results
  • Field sobriety test results
  • Statements from the arresting officers
  • Police and accident reports
  • Medical records
  • Alcohol receipts
  • Video of the alcohol purchase
  • Video of the accident

In some cases, it may be necessary for your lawyer to retain the services of an expert witness to testify that drunken behavior would indeed be on display given the results of the BAC test.

Business Liability in Dram Shop Claims

Although most dram shop claims are related to DUI automobile collisions, you can still make a claim against a drunk driver’s auto insurance regardless of what’s happening with the dram shop claim.

Compensation recovered through a dram shop claim should be regarded as supplementary compensation.

Businesses May Only Be Partially to Blame

A business licensed to sell alcohol in Texas can only be held liable for damages equal to the proportion of blame that a jury assigns to it. For example, if a jury determines that a liquor store was 70% at fault for the accident occurring, they will only have to pay 70% of the damages being sought.

In addition to criminal penalties brought against a bar or restaurant, the Texas Alcohol Beverage Commission (TABC) may also revoke the business’s permit to sell alcohol.

Business Owner Liability Exceptions

In certain situations, a business that sells alcohol can be immune from a dram shop claim – even if one of their employees violated the Texas Dram Shop Act – if they comply with the following three requirements:

  • The business requires its employees to attend a TABC-approved “seller training program.”
  • The employee in question actually attended the program
  • The employer neither directly nor indirectly encouraged said employee to violate the Texas Dram Shop Act

Texas Social Host Responsibility Laws

The Texas Alcohol and Beverage Code also refers to the social host liability law. Here, anyone twenty-one years of age or older who knowingly provides alcohol to a minor can be held accountable for any damages caused by a minor who was under the influence.

The adult must have been someone other than the minor’s parent or legal guardian, and the minor must be under the age of eighteen. For example, suppose 16-year-old Kim was given two shots of vodka by her friend’s dad at a house party and then subsequently struck a bicyclist while drunk driving. In that case, her friend’s dad could be held accountable under Texas’ social host liability laws.

Featured Case: $330,000 Awarded to Passenger Injured by a Drunk Driver

Our client was a passenger in a parked car. While they were talking to the driver, a drunk driver slammed into the front of the client’s car, causing a severe wreck. Police rushed to the scene and arrested the drunk, charging them with drunk driving and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon – their car.

Our client suffered shoulder instability and nerve damage to their left foot requiring the occasional use of a walking boot. Our client was worried about their medical bills and how long it would take to recover.

We immediately took the case into our hands and successfully resolved the claim for the maximum insurance limits. In addition to the drunk driver’s insurance, we also went after the underinsured motorist coverage of the driver of the car our client was in (at no penalty to them). We successfully won $330,000.

File a Dram Shop Liability Claim in Texas

If you or someone you love was injured in a Texas motor vehicle accident involving alcohol, consult with a board-certified personal injury attorney experienced in handling dram shop liability claims.

At Anderson Injury Lawyers, our attorneys have handled hundreds of claims and have offices throughout the DFW Metroplex in Dallas, Fort Worth, Arlington, and Keller.

To schedule a free, no-obligation consultation on your case, please call us today in Fort Worth at 817-294-1900 or in Dallas at 214-327-8000.