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Texas Personal Injury News

Monday, October 23, 2017

Bar Owner Liability: Dram Shop Law Basics in Texas

Liability in a drunk driving accident may go beyond the driver him or herself. Legal responsibility may extend to those who provided the driver with alcohol in some situations. This is important because some insurance companies will not pay for claims when their insured was driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. In those situations, the driver may not be able to personally pay for all of your losses associated with the accident.

Texas, like all other states, will hold a bar or other drinking establishment legally responsible for a drunk driving accident if certain conditions are met. This type of liability is based on “dram shop” laws, and an attorney experienced in dram shop claims can be an invaluable resource after a drunk driving accident. Texas also goes one step further than many states and provides liability for those who served alcohol in social settings as well.

What is a Dram Shop Claim?

You can often bring a dram shop claim against a bar, tavern, restaurant, or another similar establishment that sells alcohol. In these claims, the establishment had a patron that they served alcohol, and that patron ended up getting drunk and was involved in an accident. The same applies to those who provided alcohol in a social setting as well.

The rule itself is relatively straightforward. Dram shop laws provide victims with a right to sue an establishment that serves alcohol when a few criteria are met:

  1. The patron was provided alcohol by the establishment;

  2. The patron caused the accident; and

  3. The patron was already dangerously or obviously drunk, but the bar or restaurant continued to serve the patron regardless.

Dram shop laws apply to any establishment that is licensed to sell alcohol in the state of Texas, including liquor stores.

First Party Dram Shop Cases

While most dram shop cases involve three parties—the establishment, the patron, and the other victim—there are cases when only two parties are involved. The intoxicated driver could sue the facility for overserving them if they were in an accident. Texas is one of just a few states that permits this type of claim. These cases are known as “first party” dram shop claims.

First-party dram shop claims can arise in any type of accident. However, they are most common in situations where the driver does not hit another vehicle or person, but an inanimate object. These objects may include things like telephone poles or trees.

Third Party Dram Shop Cases

In third-party dram shop cases, the injured person was not the cause of their injury (as they are in first-party cases). The injured third party is often in another vehicle, but that is not required. Even passengers can bring a third-party dram shop case when their driver was overserved. These cases are far more common and are often easier to prove.

Asserting Your Dram Shop Claim

Because dram shop claims are so unique, they are tricky to present to a judge or jury. They can also be challenging because of the involvement (or lack of involvement) of insurance companies. If you think you may have a dram shop claim, speak with a member of our team today. We can help walk you through your legal options.


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