dram shop law

Understanding the Dram Shop Law and How it Can Affect Your Drunk Driving Case

Car crashes involving drunk drivers are usually associated with more damage than those that involve sober drivers. This is because alcohol impacts the central nervous system, slowing down a person’s reflexes. A drunk driver will not be able to brake quick enough or take action fast enough to avoid a car accident.

Many people involved in road accidents that involve a drunk driver suffer severe physical injuries, property damage and in the worst cases, death. For these persons and their families, the law allows them to claim against the drunk driver for damages caused by drunk driving and also from the bar or club that over served the drunk driver through Texas’ dram shop law. If you’re thinking of taking any of these actions, consult a Texas drunk driving accidents lawyer first.

What is the Texas Dram Shop Law?

Texas’ dram shop law is contained in Chapter 2 of the Alcoholic Beverages Code. The law provides that establishments selling alcoholic beverages will be held responsible for serving alcohol to obviously intoxicated persons. The law provides that an establishment will be held liable if it serves alcohol:

  1. To a person who was obviously intoxicated at the time of service to the point that the person presented an obvious danger to himself and others
  2. And the person’s intoxication was the proximate cause of the damages suffered.

This means that the victim of a car crash can claim damages from the owner of the establishment where the drunk driver was over served. To succeed, the victim, now plaintiff, must prove that the owner or establishment staff:

  • Served the drunk driver despite being obviously intoxicated to the extent of posing a danger to himself and others
  • The driver’s intoxication caused the accident, which resulted in injury.

A plaintiff can prove a person was obviously intoxicated through testimonies from witnesses who observed behavior consistent with intoxication.

Case Study

Kevin was drinking at a bar. He got drunk to the extent his speech was slurred and his gait staggered. However, the bar attendant continued to serve Kevin with alcoholic beverages. Finally Kevin left the bar and got into his car to drive home. On the course of his journey back, he ran a red light and T-boned another driver, Steve, at an intersection. Steve suffered severe injuries. Steve can file a personal injury claim against Kevin, the drunk driver, for injuries caused by the DUI accident. Steve can also file a claim against the bar that over-served Kevin for their portion of liability under the dram shop laws.

Indeed, many of the plaintiffs who file cases against drinking establishments are third parties involved in road accidents with drunk drivers. These include passengers being driven by the drunk driver and pedestrians and cyclists injured by the drunk driver.

Establishment Owner’s Liability

The dram shop law places the owners of establishments serving alcoholic beverages strictly liable for the acts of their staff. Therefore, if a waiter or bartender over serves an obviously drunk driver who later causes a road accident, the owner is strictly liable for the actions of the staff.

However, in Texas, the owner of the establishment, if found liable, will only contribute damages up to the extent of his fault. This means that if the court finds the drunk driver was 60 percent at fault and the establishment 40 percent, then the owner of the establishment will only contribute to damages to the extent of fault (40 percent).

Liability under the dram shop law could also subject the establishment owner to a license revocation.

Texas’ dram shop laws are pretty complex. However, they present victims of drunk driving car accidents a path to full compensation for their injuries or losses suffered by both the drunk driver and the alcoholic beverages establishment. If you were injured in an accident involving a drunk driver, you can schedule a consult with one of our Texas auto accident lawyers about how the dram shop laws affect your case and the damages payable to you.


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