A picture of a police officer with the words, "what is a dram shop accident?"

In 2021, there were 25, 261 drunk driving accidents in the state of Texas alone. Out of those accidents, 1,029 individuals died either on impact or due to their injuries later, and 2,522 individuals were seriously injured.

The state of Texas has pretty strict drunk driving laws which are set in place to help keep drivers safe while on the road. Individuals who choose to drive after drinking can expect harsh penalties of fines up to $10,000 and jail sentences of up to 10 years. However, a drunk driver isn’t always the sole liable part of an accident. In some cases, the injured party may also seek compensation from the business, whether that is a bar or restaurant, that provided the intoxicated individual with alcohol. These types of car accident claims are known as “dram shop” claims.

The Hernandez Law Group, P.C. believes strongly that individuals injured in an accident should not be expected to pay for their recovery. Instead, we fight alongside them, being their voice and advocating in a court of law to ensure that they get the compensation they deserve. In this article, our team goes over what a dram shop accident is and how it can affect one’s personal injury claim. Here is what you need to know:

What Is the Texas State Law On Dram Shop?

The Texas Alcohol and Beverage Code makes a social host, such as a restaurant or bar, liable for any damages caused by an intoxicated individual if that patron:

  • Was obviously intoxicated to the extent that they presented a clear danger to themselves or others, and continued to serve alcohol to them anyways.
  • Directly caused the damages the victim suffered during the accident. 

For example, Joe decides to stop at a bar on his way home from work. Having had an incredibly stressful day, he ordered several strong drinks. As the evening progresses, the bartender notices that Joe is showing signs of being highly intoxicated. He has slurred speech, is unstable on his feet, and is having trouble controlling his emotions. But Joe doesn’t want to stop drinking and the bartender, though uncomfortable with the situation, continues to serve him. Finally, closing time comes, and the bartender allows Joe to leave the bar, where he gets into a car and ends up in an accident only a couple of miles from the bar. Under Texas’s dram shop laws, because of the bartender’s inaction, the bar can be held liable for the damages accrued due to the accident. 

Dram Shop Injury Claims in the State of Texas

The scales of justice behind a glass of whiskey, a pair of handcuffs and a metal car

Whenever a bartender, server, or any other alcohol vendor serves alcohol to someone who is obviously intoxicated, leading to an accident that results in injury, the following individuals may have a claim against the alcohol provider:

Bystanders or Other Drivers on the Road Injured by the Drunk Driver

If a driver is injured due to an alcohol-related incident where there is evidence that a server at a bar or a restaurant over-served the drunk driver, the injured party may have a claim against that establishment.

The Drunk Driver

In some cases, the liable driver for the accident may have a claim against the establishment that overserved them for damages that stemmed from the accident. This is known as a first-party dram shop case. If the intoxicated driver was killed, however, their immediate family would be eligible to bring forth a wrongful death dram shop claim.

Family Members of the Injured Party

Sometimes, injuries stemming from an accident are so severe that the injured person is unable to seek compensation for themselves. In this case, the immediate family member of the injured person, such as a wife or parent, can seek out a “loss of consortium” claim. This type of claim applies when the injured person can no longer contribute as a member of their household due to the severity of the injuries that occurred due to the accident. For example, paralysis.

Cases of Wrongful Death in a Dram Shop Accident Case

Unfortunately, sometimes drunk-driving accidents are so severe that the injured party either dies on impact or succumbs later to their injuries. These cases are “wrongful death claims.”

What Is Wrongful Death?

A close up of a red car with the airbags deployed.

Wrongful death involves circumstances where the negligence of one party caused an accident that resulted in the death of another. For example, an individual who had been heavily drinking gets in their car and speeds home. They fly through an intersection, failing to notice that the light was red, and slam into another vehicle, killing the driver and passengers inside. 

Dram Shop in Wrongful Death Cases

If the individual from the example above was at a restaurant before they got into their car, and the bartender or server noticed that they were intoxicated but failed to act, the bar may be held responsible for damages as well. 

Since the deceased party is unable to seek compensation themselves, the following parties may bring forth a claim on their behalf:

  • The deceased’s spouse
  • Children of the deceased
  • Parents of the deceased

How Is Liability Proven in a Texas Dram Shop Case?

Under the Texas Dram Shop Act, the following elements must be proven to establish liability for the establishment that served alcohol to the negligent party:

  1. The bar over-served the obviously intoxicated individual.
  2. The intoxicated individual then caused an accident due to their intoxication.
  3. Someone (in some cases including the drunk driver) suffered an injury at the hands of the intoxicated individual who was over-served.

Understanding Responsibility

It may seem like a drunk driver can simply blame an accident on the establishment that served them alcohol. This is not the case. Instead, the purpose of this law is to protect patrons consuming alcoholic beverages and ensure that establishments don’t condone or fail to act when there is blatant overdrinking. The drunk driver is still responsible for their choice to get into their vehicle and drive.

Bars, restaurants, and other establishments that serve alcoholic beverages are required by law to train all staff to be able to catch signs of a drunk individual. They also are required to teach employees how to respond to obviously drunk individuals so that they may assist in maintaining public safety. Establishments that ignore this training are blatantly negligent and putting the public at risk. 

Were You the Victim of a Dram Shop Accident?

Drunk driving accidents are never pretty. When you have been injured in an accident, whether it was a dram shop accident or regular drunk driving case, the team at the Hernandez Law Group, P.C. can help. We fight hard to ensure that your voice is heard in a court of law. We focus on gathering the evidence needed to show the liability of the responsible party and get you the compensation you deserve while you focus on your recovery. Contact our team today for more information on our dram shop accident services or to schedule a free no-obligation consultation with one of our caring attorneys.

Dram Shop FAQs

Does Texas Have a Dram Shop Law?

Yes. The Texas Dram Shop Act allows for victims of drunk driving accidents and their family members to bring a lawsuit against bars, restaurants, and other providers of alcohol who negligently over-served a patron who then got into a car and was involved in a crash.

Are Bartenders Always Responsible for a Drunk Driver’s Accident?

Not always. The only time the Dram Shop Law applies to a drunk driving case is if there is evidence that a bartender or other server of alcohol was serving an obviously intoxicated person to the extent that the individual presented a danger to themself or others.

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