Dram Shops & Drunk Drivers
Drinking and driving is a concerning issue in the U.S. with over 11,000 fatalities caused every year by drunk drivers alone. Drinking impairs judgment and augments reaction time. In Texas, a person is hurt or killed in a vehicular crash involving alcohol about every 20 minutes. It comes as no surprise that the most DWI collisions and deaths occur on Saturday nights leading into early Sunday mornings, with most occurring between 2:00 a.m. and 3:00 a.m. This timeframe is exactly when most bars, nightclubs and restaurants have shut down and people begin to head home.
Although it is indisputable that the drunk driver bears responsibility for getting behind the wheel, the establishment where the individual was drinking also has some liability in the state of Texas. In other words, a bar, restaurant, or nightclub owes a duty to their patrons and the public at large. This is true under the Texas Dram Shop Liability Statute.
We have many clients who are unfamiliar with dram shops. A dram shop is any place where alcoholic beverages are sold on the premises. The term “dram shop” originated during the time in which drinking establishments served their patrons using the dram, or 1/8 of a fluid ounce, as a measure of the amount of alcohol to be used in a particular beverage.
Dram shop laws are statutes that impose liability on those who sell and/or serve alcohol to intoxicated patrons. Since 1987, Texas has provided for a statutory cause of action under the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Code § 2.02, known as the Dram Shop Act. The stated legislative purpose of the Dram Shop Act is to protect “the welfare, health, peace, temperance, and safety of people of the State.” The Texas Supreme Court has interpreted the purpose behind the Dram Shop Act to be to discourage providers of alcoholic beverages from serving alcoholic beverages to obviously intoxicated individuals who may inflict serious injury on themselves or others.
Establishing Your Case
Dram shop laws exist in almost every state. These laws spell out the liability of alcohol-serving establishments in relation to personal injury and wrongful death claims arising from an intoxicated individual’s actions. For example, if the person drinks at a bar and is visibly intoxicated to the bar's employees and patrons, and then is injured during a driving accident on the way home, the bar may be held liable.
Dram shop laws make it possible for a victim of a drunk driving accident (or the family of a deceased victim) to sue an establishment for their share of the liability due to the negligent over-service of alcohol. A common misconception is that dram shop law exists to remove blame from the driver; this is not the case.
In order to be held liable under a dram shop statute, it must be proven that the establishment continued to serve alcohol to a person that was visibly or obviously intoxicated and that serving the alcohol was the specific cause of the person’s injuries. Some dram shop laws cover the sale of alcohol to intoxicated minors.
Whether you are the person injured or are a dram shop operator, it is important that you obtain advice from an experienced attorney. In Texas, the court will have to undergo a rigorous analysis of the percentage of liability that should be assigned to each party involved. The Medina Law Firm PC is here to be of assistance in such claims and help ensure liability falls where it should.
At the Medina Law Firm PC, we offer free consultations in order to better understand your situation and explain your legal options.
We understand how to thoroughly investigate dram shop liability claims and can analyze your unique situation and pursue justice and compensation from all responsible parties. Contact us today to discuss your case.