Dram Shop Law in Texas

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 resulted from over serving alcohol to a drunk person. This means that if you got drunk and hurt yourself - or you were hurt by a drunk person - you can make a claim against the bar or restaurant that served the alcohol.

What is a Dram Shop?

To begin, we must understand what a "dram shop" actually is. As previously noted, a dram shop is a place, such as a bar, where alcohol is served and sold. These places are responsible to meet 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. Even more, if the bar tender or server who provided the alcoholic drink to the individual who caused the car accident, and they did so knowingly, then this can be a precedence for the establishment to come under legal review, which could include removing them of their license to serve alcohol. In Texas, drunk driving accidents are not taken tolerated, which is why those found responsible of serving unsafe amounts of alcohol may have legal consequences against them.

Drunk Driving Accidents and Dram Shop Laws

Most dram shop claims are made by drunk driving victims. 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 continuing to serve customers who have already 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. 

What the Law Says and How It's Interpreted

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:

  1. It was visibly evident that the drunken person was intoxicated at the time they were served alcohol
  2. 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 can you prove what a bartender does or does not think? If you've come to this point in your claim and you aren't sure how to continue, it's a good idea to consult a personal injury attorney. The consultation should be free. 

How To Prove Negligence In a Dram Shop Claim

In order 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 period of time, easily visible and obviously drunk), that's a satisfactory defense. 

Said intoxication therefore can be established by the testimony of other witnesses or by circumstantial evidence, such as their blood alcohol level at the time of the incident that caused injury. In some cases, it may be necessary for your lawyer to retain the services of an expert witness to testify that intoxicated behavior would indeed be on display given the results of the BAC test.

The Liability of Businesses In Dram Shop Claims

Since the majority of dram shop claims are related to DUI automobile collisions, it is worth noting that the Texas Dram Shop Act doesn't affects the rights of injured individuals to make a claim for compensation against the auto insurance of the intoxicated driver. (In other words, 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. 

It is also worth noting that 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 percent at fault for the accident occurring, they will only have to pay 70 percent 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.

The Safe Harbor

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:

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

How to Make a Dram Shop Liability Claim

If you or someone you love was injured in a Texas motor vehicle accident where alcohol was a factor, it is a good idea to consult with a board certified personal injury attorney who has experience handling dram shop liability claims.

Here at the Anderson Law Firm, our attorneys have handled hundreds of such 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.

Other Articles You Might Be Interested In:

Dram Shop Claims – Liquor Liability

Dry Counties In Texas Have More Drunk Driving Auto Accidents

DWI/DUI: Criminal Vs. Civil Law

Making a Personal Injury or Wrongful Death Claim Against Someone Charged with Intoxication Manslaughter

Claiming Punitive Damages in a Drunk Driving Accident Case

Mark A. Anderson
Board Certified Personal Injury Lawyer in Fort Worth, Texas