There is no understating of the seriousness of a drunk driving accident. An intoxicated driver is an uninhibited driver, meaning they are much more likely to speed and engage in risky behavior and much less likely to take action to avoid a collision.
If you’ve been hit and injured by a drunk driver, you already know that you can hold them liable for your damages via a personal injury lawsuit. But could anyone else be responsible for the harm you’ve suffered?
Texas dram shop laws allow victims of drunk driving accidents to hold negligent bars and restaurants liable for overserving their patrons. This is a particularly complex area of state law, which is why we want every injury victim in Houston, as well as Harrison, Fort Bend, and Montgomery Counties, to understand what their rights are.
A Guide to Texas Dram Shop Laws
A dram shop is a commercial business or establishment that sells alcoholic beverages to patrons. Examples of dram shops include:
- Bars and taverns
- Beer gardens
- Specialty arcades
The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Code addresses the civil liability of a dram shop that overserves its customers. An establishment that is found to have overserved a customer to the point of intoxication may be found liable for any resulting damages should that customer get behind the wheel of a vehicle and cause an accident.
What Does It Mean To Overserve a Customer?
Bars, restaurants, and other establishments that serve alcohol should never serve customers to the point of visible intoxication. Overserving a customer refers to providing so many alcoholic beverages to a customer that they become obviously and clearly intoxicated, often to the point of being a danger to themselves or others.
A customer who has been overserved alcohol may:
- Slur their words
- Appear sleepy or drowsy
- Stumble or have trouble staying upright
- Vomit or complain about being nauseous
- Have bloodshot eyes
- Begin ordering more drinks at a rapid pace
- Display aggressive behavior
An overserved customer poses a danger to others if they are allowed to leave the establishment and get behind the wheel of a vehicle. Even if it is apparent that someone is not fit to drive, an individual who is visibly drunk will often lack the reasoning skills to make a proper judgment call.
Proving That a Bar or Restaurant Was Negligent
It is not enough to simply show that a drunk driver had visited a bar or restaurant prior to causing an accident. In order to recover compensation from an establishment in a dram shop liability case, you must prove that the business acted in a way that was negligent.
Commercial businesses and establishments have a vested interest in limiting their own liability for accidents and injuries. Proving that a bar negligently overserved a patron will be exceptionally difficult for those who do not have experience navigating complex legal matters. The role of investigating and assigning liability is often best reserved for a knowledgeable drunk driving accident lawyer.
An experienced attorney can investigate your dram shop claim to determine whether negligence took place. We draw on a wide range of evidence, including security footage from restaurants, dashcam footage, credit and debit card statements, eyewitness statements, and more, when painting a picture of dram shop negligence.
Why is determining the establishment’s negligence so important? The legal concept of negligence plays a pivotal role in injury claims, and failing to establish negligence often means that the victim will be ineligible to recover compensation.
When handling a dram shop liability claim, the four main elements of negligence that must be proved are:
- That the dram shop had a duty of care not to overserve customers
- That the dram shop violated that duty of care by overserving a customer
- That the overserved customer then drove and caused an accident resulting in injuries
- That the victim suffered measurable damages as a result of their injuries
The above four elements might seem obvious to you. However, the defendant will have its own team of lawyers and its insurer on its side and will be prepared to fight any claims accusing it of wrongdoing.
To preserve your legal right to compensation, schedule a free consultation with a dram shop attorney as soon as possible after your accident.
Texas Social Host Liability Laws
The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Code also covers the legal concept of social host liability. This refers to circumstances in which the host of a function or gathering that involves the consumption of alcohol can be held responsible for any resulting injuries. This responsibility covers both guests who harm themselves or who leave the gathering and harm others.
Functions covered by social host liability laws include:
- House parties
- Work holiday parties
Section 2.02 of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Code specifically states that individuals aged 21 and older can be held liable for damages caused by a drunk driver if they provided alcohol to a minor and:
- The minor was younger than 18
- The provider of the alcohol was not the minor’s parent or custodial guardian
- The provider of the alcohol knowingly provided beverages that contributed to the minor’s intoxication
Even if the adult did not serve or provide the alcohol directly to the minor, simply knowingly allowing another to do so is enough to trigger social host liability laws should the minor go on to drive and cause an accident.
Finding Hope After a Drunk Driving Accident
If you’re out of work and watching medical bills pile up, the situation can feel more than a little hopeless. You may even feel as if you have no choice but to try and return to work, even as you’re still healing and in a physically vulnerable place in your recovery.
We don’t want that to happen. Every drunk driving lawyer at Buckingham & Vega Law Firm has the requisite knowledge and experience needed to fully investigate a dram shop liability claim.
If you believe the drunk driver who hit you was overserved at a restaurant or bar, please contact our law firm as soon as possible to schedule a free consultation. The sooner you get in touch, the sooner we can begin collecting evidence and building your case.