When drunk drivers cause accidents that result in injuries, they can be held liable in civil court. These proceedings are above and beyond the criminal penalties they will likely face. However, these impaired motorists might be the only party facing a civil lawsuit after a car accident.
Under Texas’ dram shop liability laws, it is possible to hold bars, restaurants, and their employers accountable for your injuries if their overserving of alcohol resulted in the crash. A Dallas car accident lawyer can explain dram shop liability and how it might relate to your car accident.
What Are Dram Shop Laws?
The term “dram shop” applies to bars and restaurants selling or serving alcoholic beverages. To prevent these establishments from serving heavily inebriated customers, some states, including Texas, have adopted laws that allow injury victims to hold these businesses accountable after an accident with a drunk driver.
In Texas, Texas Alcoholic Beverage Code Ann. § 2.01 contains these laws. Under the law, establishments are held to a duty of care when it comes to their customers. These establishments must take reasonable steps to ensure their patrons do not become overly intoxicated. This includes refusing service when necessary.
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What Evidence Is Necessary to Prove a Dram Shop Liability Case?
A plaintiff must establish certain elements for their dram shop liability case to be successful. After all, not every bar or nightclub owner faces civil liability when a patron leaves their venue and gets into an accident. Texas takes a different approach from states in that the law does not automatically hold an establishment liable for every drink they serve to an intoxicated person.
Instead, these cases hinge on whether the patron was obviously intoxicated when the establishment continued to serve them alcohol. This usually involves a visible sign that makes it obvious the at-fault party was impaired.
Proving a specific establishment overserved a driver is often more challenging than showing they were intoxicated. In many situations, the establishment and its staff will likely not admit they knew the driver was drunk. In some cases, they might not admit to that person being in their establishment at all.
Prevailing in these cases often requires circumstantial evidence. A winning case could be possible for a plaintiff if they can find witnesses who can testify to the visual signs that the driver was impaired. The use of the driver’s receipt or purchase record at the bar could also be valuable evidence.
Are ‘Social Hosts’ Liable in a Dram Shop Case?
Dram shop laws provide an opportunity to file a personal injury lawsuit against negligent bar or restaurant owners when they overserve their guests. However, in most cases, this liability does not extend to “social hosts” that provide intoxicated guests with alcohol—even if that guest ultimately causes a motor vehicle accident.
The rules regarding social hosts are nuanced, however. In fact, there is a situation where a social host might face civil liability for overserving their guests. This can happen when a homeowner serves a guest under the age of 18 alcohol, and that minor goes on to have a car accident. The adult who served the minor alcohol is civilly liable for any damage the minor causes if they get into a drunk driving crash.
It is worth noting that this exception only applies to minors under the age of 18. It does not apply to cases involving people between the ages of 18 and 20. Even though they cannot legally drink alcohol, a social host is not liable if they ultimately cause an accident. There is also an exception that protects a parent from liability if they serve alcohol to their minor child at their home only for the minor to cause a collision afterward.
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Who Can File a Dram Shop Liability Lawsuit?
These lawsuits could be available to anyone who suffered an injury due to a drunk driver who was overserved by a bar or restaurant. Often, the individuals filing these lawsuits are the other motorists involved in the collision. That is not always the case, however.
Often, drunk drivers collide with bicyclists or pedestrians. These parties have the right to pursue legal action despite not driving. What’s more, a passenger of the drunk driver could also have a viable claim. In that situation, they could file a lawsuit against the driver and the establishment.
What Are Dram Shop Cases Worth?
Various types of damages are available regarding the potential for recovering financial compensation in a dram shop case. The same categories of damages awarded in negligence claims also apply to dram shop liability cases. Some examples could include the following:
- Lost income
- Past and future medical bills
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Mental anguish
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Chronic pain
- Scarring or disfigurement
- Diminished future earning power
- Property damage
In general, punitive damages are not readily available for injury lawsuits. However, there could be exceptions where this type of compensation might be on the table. You can discuss the prospect of punitive damages with your personal injury attorney. If a loved one suffered fatal injuries in a drunk driving crash, you could also inquire about pursuing a wrongful death lawsuit to recover financial losses.
Talk to an Attorney Today About Your Dram Shop Liability Claim or Lawsuit
If a drunk driver injured you or someone you love in an auto accident, there could be more than one party to blame. Establishments that knowingly serve intoxicated people are often held liable when those patrons cause an accident.
If you are considering your legal options regarding dram shop liability claims, now is the time to reach out. The team at Loncar Lyon Jenkins is ready to help you review your case and evaluate all your options. To discuss your potential recovery and legal representation for your case, contact us as soon as possible for a free consultation.