Dram Shop Laws
Sometimes, a drunk driver isn't the only one responsible for an accident. In some cases, the bar that served the driver may also be liable.
If you've been injured by a drunk driver, Roger 'Rocky' Walton in Arlington, TX, can help you hold all responsible parties accountable.
How do dram shop laws protect me?
Accountability, Restitution, and Justice
Hold All Responsible Parties Accountable
In addition to pursuing a claim against a drunk driver after an accident, our Arlington firm can help victims bring a claim against a business or third party that provided alcohol to the driver.
Collect Maximum Compensation
If a bar or restaurant continued to serve alcohol or liquor to someone who was "obviously intoxicated" and who clearly posed danger to their own safety and that of others as a result, you may be able to hold them at least partially liable for any injuries you or a loved one has suffered and collect damages from the establishment as well as the driver.
Responsibility Still Lies where It Belongs
There are no "first party claims." In other words, these types of civil injury lawsuits can only be filed by a victim of a drunk driving accident. Texas law does not allow a drunk driver to bring a claim against a dram shop that served them alcoholic beverages.
Book a Free Consultation with the Law Firm of Roger "Rocky" Walton, P.C.
Were you injured by a drunk driver? If so, call the Law Firm of Roger "Rocky" Walton, P.C. in Arlington now at (817) 576-8219 or toll-free at (888) 762-5988 or request an appointment online. As your attorney, Rocky Walton will conduct a thorough analysis of your accident to identify all parties at fault for your losses.
Se habla Español. We offer free consultations at our Arlington office serving greater Dallas. If we take your case, you pay nothing unless and until we collect a settlement or jury award on your behalf.
"It’s hard to convey how much this firm, Rocky Walton and his entire team, has helped us. After a car accident, we found ourselves in a very difficult position with a serious health issue....When we had questions, they took care of us. When it was time to get things done, they took care of us. We worked as a team- my questions were never unanswered and concerns were never ignored or minimized." Crystal C., Google Review
What is a "Dram Shop"?
The name of this statute is taken from the word "dram," an antiquated unit of alcohol measurement. A dram shop is defined as any establishment that serves alcohol. This typically includes restaurants and bars, but may also cover other locations where alcohol is available.
Why Do Dram Shop Laws Exist?
A dram shop law is meant to take drinking establishments to task for potentially contributing to a drunk driving accident. The person ultimately responsible for such an accident is the driver, since they decided to operate a car while intoxicated. Dram shop laws do not absolve drivers of responsibility.
However, these laws make sure that businesses or people who enable this behavior can be held legally responsible for it. If an establishment has a license to serve alcohol, they are legally obligated to make sure that they are not endangering patrons or other members of the community. While many businesses take this obligation seriously, just as many prioritize profits over safety. With dram shop laws, this negligence can be penalized.
Social Host Liability
In Texas, this statute does not apply exclusively to businesses. The victim of a car accident can also bring a claim against a "social host" or any adult who is hosting a party or gathering where liquor or other alcoholic beverages are served.
However, unlike a business, social hosts are not liable for any person who drinks at the party. A claim can only be brought against them if:
They knowingly serve or provide alcohol to a minor who goes on to cause an accident, or they allowed a minor to drink on any property that they own, and
This adult is not the parent, guardian, legal custodian, or spouse of the minor.
While an adult is fully responsible for how much alcohol they consume at a friend's party, a minor cannot shoulder that liability on their own. Instead, the responsibility falls on the adult in charge of the situation - in this case, the host.
"I went to Rocky's office, injured, confused, and not understanding what my options were, regarding my injury. Not only did they take care of my personal injury claim, they advised me on what other steps I should be taking to protect my interests...I can't even express how grateful I am to Rocky, Kati, Michelle, and everyone else there, for actually caring about me, and helping me get redress." Patrick B., Google Review
Unlike other states, Texas does not have dram shop laws that are strictly liable. In other words, responsibility for a drunk driving accident does not fall entirely on the business selling liquor or other alcoholic beverages. Instead, liability is split between the business and the driver.
The court will typically assign a percentage of liability to both the driver and dram shop, based on how responsible each party is determined to be. For example, a driver may have to pay 80 percent of the damages awarded to a plaintiff, leaving the business with 20 percent.
However, there is no guarantee that the dram shop will be held completely liable. As a result, it does not make sense to pursue a claim against the dram shop alone. Most attorneys will recommend that you file a lawsuit against either the driver alone or both the driver and business.
A Personal Injury Trial Law Specialist
Rocky Walton in Arlington has been representing clients in personal injury cases since 1987 and is one of fewer than three percent of personal injury trial law specialists in the state of Texas. His firm can communicate both in English and Spanish to make representation as accessible as possible.
Reach out to his Arlington office online or at (817) 429-4299 to schedule a free initial consultation and discuss your case.
The Safe Harbor or Trained Server Defense
Establishing liability on the part of a bar or restaurant is not always a straightforward process. Drinking establishments can protect themselves if they are able to prove that they followed Texas guidelines on providing alcohol. More specifically, a business needs to prove that:
- Their employees have all attended a seller training program approved by the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission.
- The employee who served alcohol to the driver actually attended this program
- Their employer has not directly or indirectly encouraged employees to violate the law
This can typically be proven with documentation about the training and clear written policies about over-serving patrons. However, most drinking establishments that are careful enough to follow these rules are unlikely to over-serve their patrons in the first place. Consequently, if the driver was drinking at a bar or restaurant prior to the accident, it is possible that the establishment did not follow these guidelines.
What Qualifies as "Obvious Intoxication"?
If a driver has a .08 blood alcohol or more, the driver is considered intoxicated in Texas. If the driver does not have the normal physical and mental faculties due to the consumption of alcohol or drugs, that person is intoxicated regardless of the test results, and even if there is no test done.
Employees serving alcoholic beverages are expected to determine if a customer is intoxicated by looking for:
Why Hire an Attorney?
If you decide to pursue a dram shop lawsuit against a business or third party, knowing how to approach it can be complicated. Because this type of lawsuit involves assigning liability to multiple parties, the court will go through a rigorous analysis to determine what percentage of liability should be assigned to each party. Constructing an effective case for compensation under these circumstances can be extremely complex to anyone who lacks legal expertise.
Hiring a professional who understands these laws can substantially improve your chances of a successful case. Our Arlington law firm will strive to make sure that liability is assigned correctly and that you receive the compensation you desperately need to recover from your injuries.
Reach out today online or at (817) 429-4299 to schedule a free initial consultation at our Arlington office.
Is it worth your time to pursue an additional claim against a business or person who served the alcohol to the driver?
It can be.
If your case is successful, the court will award damages to cover your medical bills, lost wages, compensation for lost or damaged property, and pain and suffering. If a driver is driving while intoxicated, and the intoxication is a proximate or immediate cause of the losses, the driver can also be responsible for punitive or exemplary damages, as well. These damages are intended to punish and are in addition to the usual damages. The driver's liability insurance is usually required to pay these damages to the extent of the policy.
No punitive damages can be assessed against an establishment (Dram Shop) under current Texas law, but other appropriate damages can be awarded.
When our Arlington firm takes a dram shop case, Rocky Walton ordinarily does not want to settle the claim against the drunk driver before he settles against the bar or restaurant. In that way, the jury is angry with the driver and will pour on the damages. However, the liability will be apportioned between the drunk driver and the bar. The jury will normally assign most of the negligence to the drunk driver. This is not good in the usual case of when the insurance coverage of the bar is greater than the coverage the drunk driver has.
The specific amount you receive will depend heavily on the details of the case. Ideally, it will be enough to pay off any financial losses that resulted from the accident so that you can focus on recovering, rather than paying the bills.
"I spent almost 5 years working with Tim, Judy, Rocky, Orsen, Michele and Katie daily on my sons case. They were all very transparent in each phase and treated me with the upmost respect. They truly cared about what our family was going through during this tragedy. We got angry together and we cried together...I would recommend Rocky and his staff over any other firm. I am forever grateful for the answers they fought to get for us!" A "Happy Customer", Google Review
The personal injury information offered and contained herein, regarding personal injury statutes and claimants' rights is general in scope. No attorney client relationship with our attorneys is hereby formed nor is the information herein intended as formal legal advice.