Opinions and Legal Insights

Can I Sue a Bar for a Drunk Driving Accident?

Drunk driving is an inherently reckless act that endangers the driver, other motorists, pedestrians, and others on the road. The human cost of drunk driving is immense. In 2019, more than 2,400 crashes and 73 deaths occurred due to DUI in Houston alone.

If you were injured or lost a loved one in a drunk driving accident, the drunk driver will almost certainly be found liable for the crash. But what about the business that serves alcohol to a patron who goes on to cause a wreck?

Patrick Daniel Law has extensive experience handling complex motor vehicle accident claims. This includes cases where liability is shared between an intoxicated individual and the establishment that served him or her – an area of law known as dram shop liability.

For a free review of your drunk driving accident claim, please call (713) 999-6666 today. Patrick Daniel Law serves clients in Houston and throughout Texas.

What Is the Dram Shop Law in Texas?

According to the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Code, a provider of alcoholic beverages may be liable for injuries caused by a patron if:

  1. “[A]t the time the provision occurred it was apparent to the provider that the individual being sold, served, or provided with an alcoholic beverage was obviously intoxicated to the extent that he presented a clear danger to himself and others”
    AND
  2. “[T]he intoxication of the recipient of the alcoholic beverage was a proximate cause of the damages suffered.”

Legally, a provider is “a person who sells or serves an alcoholic beverage under authority of a license or permit … or who otherwise sells an alcoholic beverage to an individual.” As such, providers of alcohol include bars, restaurants, and other establishments, as well as the bartenders, servers, and other employees of these businesses.

The goal of the dram shop law is to encourage establishments that serve alcohol to do so responsibly. When businesses fail in this duty, they may face civil liability if the drunk patron causes a car accident or another type of injury.

When Is a Provider Liable Under the Dram Shop Law?

The establishment is not automatically liable because a patron had too much to drink and made the unwise decision to get behind the wheel. For the provider to be at fault, it had to have been “apparent to the provider” that the customer “was obviously intoxicated to the extent that he presented a clear danger to himself and others.”

In simple terms, the customer must have exhibited signs of intoxication, and the provider failed to cut him off. Under the dram shop law, overserving a drunk customer constitutes negligence on the part of the provider.

How Do I Prove the Bar Was at Fault?

Although the signs that someone is intoxicated may seem obvious, actually proving that the wait staff at the bar or other establishment knew (or should have known) that a patron was drunk can be challenging. Everyone handles alcohol differently. It can also be difficult for the staff to monitor a guest’s consumption when serving multiple customers.

The attorneys at Patrick Daniel Law take a strategic approach to dram shop liability cases. First, we gather evidence of the intoxication of the at-fault driver through witness testimony and the police report of the accident. The police report will document any sobriety tests performed at the scene, as well as citations or arrests for impaired or drunk driving.

Next, we trace the at-fault driver’s actions leading up to the accident. If he or she visited one or more bars, taverns, restaurants, clubs, or other venues where alcohol is served, we will identify witnesses at the establishment and get their statements on how much the customer had to drink, how he or she was behaving, etc. If the establishment has surveillance cameras, we can subpoena the footage and review both the guest’s drinking and the staff’s service of the customer.

Many businesses that serve alcohol in Houston and other areas of Texas require servers to be certified by the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) as a condition of employment. Part of TABC certification training is how to identify intoxicated individuals and deny them further service.

Unfortunately, there is no state law requiring alcohol providers to employ TABC-certified servers. As a result, some establishments may have staff who are ill-equipped to know when a guest is being overserved.

Our lawyers investigate the certification of employees at the establishment to determine if the servers had the training to recognize intoxication but failed to act on it. We also investigate the business itself for prior alcohol violations.

Contact Our Dram Shop Lawyers If You Were in a Drunk Driving Accident

Though filing a claim against a drunk driver may seem straightforward, trying to prove the liability of a bar for providing the alcohol can be difficult. You need experienced legal counsel who can investigate the accident and the events leading up to it on your behalf.

At Patrick Daniel Law, we are Strategic, Meticulous, and Merciless in service to our clients. In dram shop law cases, we identify all liable parties through thorough investigation and relentlessly pursue compensation for the injuries and damages you sustain.

Please call (713) 999-6666 today for a free case evaluation. Patrick Daniel Law serves clients throughout Houston and other areas of Texas.

Sources:

Texas Department of Transportation, DUI (Alcohol) Crashes and Injuries – Cities and Towns
Texas Alcoholic Beverage Code, Chapter 2. Civil Liabilities for Serving Beverages
Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, TABC Certification FAQs

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