Dram Shop Laws
Sometimes, a drunk driver isn't the only one responsible for a wreck. The bar that served the driver liquor may also be liable.
If you've been injured by a drunk driver, Roger 'Rocky' Walton in Arlington, Texas, can help you hold all responsible parties accountable.
How do dram shop laws affect my personal injury case?
Compensation for Injured Texans and Consequences for Negligent Parties
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 personal injury 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 Stays 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 personal injury 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. now in Arlington, Texas, 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.
Rocky Walton fights for the rights of clients in Grand Prairie, Fort Worth, and Greater DFW.
Se habla Español. We offer free consultations at our 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.
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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 statute typically applies to 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 hold drinking establishments responsible for 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, Texas 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 wreck 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 to a minor who causes an accident.
While an adult is fully responsible for how much alcohol they consume at a friend's party, for example, 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.
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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 divided between the business and the at-fault 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 pay 80 percent of the damages awarded to a plaintiff, leaving the business 20 percent.
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 the business.
A Personal Injury Trial Law Specialist
Rocky Walton in Arlington, TX, 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.
When negligence causes residents of Grand Prairie, Fort Worth, and Greater DFW to become injured, Rocky Walton is here to pursue justice.
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 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 defense, known as the "safe harbor" or "trained server" defense, can be proven with documentation about the training and clear written policies pertaining to the over-serving of 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 car wreck, 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:
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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 for anyone who lacks legal expertise.
Rocky Walton helps innocent victims in Grand Prairie, Fort Worth, and Greater DFW collect what they are owed.
Hiring a professional who understands these laws can substantially improve your chances of a successful case. Our 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, TX, 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. 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.
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.