Dram Shop Liability: Who Should I Sue in a Drunk Driving Accident?

Adults have the right to enjoy a drink in Texas, but when they become intoxicated (visibly or otherwise), Texas bars and other drinking establishments are legally required to stop serving them. Not all places do, either because the server fails to realize that their customer has had too much or they’re more concerned about the size of their tips, but people get hurt as a result.

Prior to the passage of the Texas Dram Shop Act in 1987, no person or establishment could be held responsible if they kept serving a drunk patron and someone was then injured or killed by that patron afterwards. Now, if you are hurt by an over-served intoxicated person, you can potentially sue the establishment that sold them the drinks, provided you can establish “standing” before the court.

What does this mean, exactly? From a legal perspective, you have standing if you 1) were injured, and 2) suffered damages that can be addressed by a Texas court.

Personal Injury Claimants

Texas law allows the following parties to file a personal injury claim against the bar when an over-served patron causes an accident:

  • Anyone who was actually hurt by the drunk driver. Injuries must be physical. If you were merely scared by a close call, you do not qualify as a claimant.
  • The drunk driver, if they were injured due to their intoxication.
  • Family members such as parents, spouses, or children, provided the injured party can no longer perform an important familial function. This is called “loss of consortium” and is its own claim.

Wrongful Death Claimants

With wrongful death claims in Dram Shop Act cases, only three types of claimants are permitted under Texas law:

  • Spouses
  • Natural or adopted children (does not include stepchildren)
  • Natural or adoptive parents (does not include stepparents)

Like personal injury cases, eligible family members of the victim or the deceased drunk driver can sue the bar for the wrongful death of their loved one.

Establishing Dram Shop Liability

If you want to file a successful claim against a bar or other drinking establishment under the Dram Shop Act, Texas law requires you to prove the following:

  • The bar served alcohol to someone who was clearly intoxicated
  • That person injured or killed someone due to their intoxicated state

Sometimes these elements can be difficult to prove, and few bars will actively assist you in proving that they were negligent. This is where assistance from an Austin personal injury firm can be invaluable.

If you or a loved one were seriously injured by a drunk driver, the Sharp Firm will help you hold the bar who over-served them accountable for their negligence. Our experienced Texas personal injury team will go the extra mile to obtain evidence that someone was over-served, such as obtaining receipts and camera footage and interviewing witnesses.

Over-service is a dangerous act, and when it happens, you or your loved one are entitled to damages. Contact us today for a free consultation.