Are bars liable for wrecks caused by a drunk driver? In some cases, yes, but it depends on the circumstances.
The Texas Dram Shop Act was passed in an attempt to hold alcohol-serving businesses civilly liable for drunk driving accidents when patrons were illegally served beyond the point of obvious intoxication.
About every 20 minutes, someone in this state is hurt or killed in a car crash involving alcohol. A typical drinker can be over the legal limit after just two or three drinks in an hour, and unfortunately, bars aren’t often concerned with limiting the number of drinks they serve to their paying customers.
Drunk driving accidents are a serious concern across the country, especially in Texas. Not only have we spent millions of dollars on awareness campaigns and toughened criminal penalties, but courts in Texas have also started holding irresponsible bars, restaurants, and similar establishments civilly liable for failing to responsibly serve alcohol.
The Texas Dram Shop Act was passed in 1987 as a way to curb drunk driving by targeting those who serve alcohol in violation of their TABC license. While not holding them criminally liable for the actions of a drunk driver, the law aims to hold irresponsible businesses civilly (financially) liable to victims of drunk driving accidents.
If you’ve been injured in an accident caused by a drunk driver in Dallas, our law firm is here to help. We’re available to take your call 24 hours a day at 214-720-6090 (local) or 1-833-720-6090 (toll-free).
What The Law Says
The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Code, Chapter 2 contains the state’s laws regarding both dram shop and social host liability. Vendors who serve alcohol may be held liable for an injury caused by a customer if:
- The alcohol was sold or given to someone under 21 years of age, or
- When the alcohol was sold, the customer was “obviously” intoxicated to the point that he or she posed “a clear danger” to the safety of self and others, and
- The intoxication was a “proximate,” or foreseeable cause of the injuries suffered.
The majority of the published court opinions dealing with the Texas Dram Shop Act originated from lawsuits involving motor vehicle accidents. Many of those lawsuits were brought by third parties such as other drivers, passengers in the car driven by the drunken driver, passengers in another car, or pedestrians struck by the drunken driver’s car.
Some of the lawsuits were even brought by the drunk driver him/herself, for injuries sustained in a single-vehicle accident (referred to as first-party claims). The fact that the drunken driver received a ticket or was convicted of a crime in connection with the accident does not bar a lawsuit against the provider of alcohol for their portion of liability.
How Bars Can Serve Alcohol Responsibly
Verifying the customer’s age by checking identification is the simplest and most straightforward step that bars can take to reduce their own liability. Checking IDs at the door (and/or before serving an alcoholic drink) and keeping tabs on each patron is not only expected, it’s legally required for all businesses serving alcohol in Texas.
Having a drink limit on each patron may not always prevent patrons from becoming intoxicated, but using such proactive measures may shield these establishments from liability in some circumstances. The point of the Dram Shop Act is not to blame all bars for drunk driving accidents; it’s to hold irresponsible bars (who break the rules) liable for their portion of responsibility.
Patrons are still free to drink at multiple bars or “pre-game” by drinking ahead of time, but in Texas, it is a TABC violation for businesses to serve alcohol to someone who is “obviously intoxicated.” Bartenders have a legal responsibility to cut off service to patrons who appear intoxicated or who’ve already been served multiple drinks, otherwise they face lawsuits and/or the loss of their TABC license.
If the patron is clearly intoxicated and intent on driving, calling a Taxi or Uber is another simple and safe way to mitigate both an accident, and any potential liability. Having a safe and sober driver take the drunk patron to their designated location is not only socially responsible, it shows intent on behalf of the bar to mitigate the potential danger at hand.
Drunk Driving Accidents Linked to Bad-Acting Bars
In order to serve alcohol in Texas, you must play by the rules. When bars, clubs, and restaurants don’t play by the rules and someone is killed or injured as a result, law firms just like ours are there to help those victims recover damages in the form of a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit.
Our firm’s goal is not to shift responsibility away from the drunk driver; quite the opposite. It’s to hold ALL parties in the chain of liability responsible for their negligence.
If you or someone you love was injured or killed as the result of a drunk driving accident in Texas, we strongly suggest speaking to a personal injury attorney experienced in dram shop litigation about your legal options. At Montgomery Law, we understand the complexities involved in such cases, and we’re available 24 hours a day to answer your questions. Call us toll-free at 214-720-6090 (local) or 1-833-720-6090 (toll-free), email us via our contact form, or start an online chat!
Montgomery Law is a Dallas-based personal injury law firm focused on getting clients the justice and compensation they deserve.
Call us toll-free at 1-833-720-6090 to discuss your case today for no cost.