Texas, like many other states, allows for a victim and their loved ones to potentially hold the seller of the alcohol liable for the acts of a drunk driver. If you or a loved one have been harmed by a drunk driver, then it is important to contact a Fort Worth dram shop liability attorney immediately.A bar or establishment selling liquor will not automatically be liable simply because a drunk driver got into an accident. It must be shown that they knowingly served a drunk person. It is important that you retain a Fort Worth dram shop liability attorney who is experienced in handling such cases.
Our state will potentially hold the provider or seller of alcohol responsible for an accident if the establishment sold to someone who was already visibly intoxicated and such a person caused injuries to another. An establishment, such as a bar, may also be liable if they see that someone intends to drive while intoxicated and the establishment fails to take reasonable steps to prevent it. Also if an establishment serves alcohol to a minor, who subsequently causes an accident, then there will be automatic liability on the part of the provider.
It is important to understand that an establishment will not be automatically liable simply because a drunk person causes an accident. It must be shown that the establishment knew, or should have known, that the person was intoxicated. This standard can lead to disputes, for example, as to whether a bartender was adequately trained to do his or her job as well as disputes about specific behaviors that the drunk person was displaying. Whether or not an establishment is liable, therefore, will always be situation and fact specific.
Texas also recognizes the theory of “social host liability,” however, a social host who serves alcoholic beverages to adult guests is not a provider under the Dram Shop Act so long as the beverages are served without charge. Social hosts do not owe a duty to refuse to provide alcoholic beverages to obviously intoxicated persons. The 2005 amendment to the Dram Shop Act subjects social hosts to liability in a limited circumstance. Under the amendment, if the adult social host serves persons 19 or 20 years old, the adult is not subject to liability. The adult social host is only subject to liability for serving minors 18 years old or younger.
If an establishment is found liable for a drunk-driving accident then the victim may be entitled to recover past and future lost wages, past and future medical expenses, and, if the facts of the case warrant it, punitive damages. The fact sensitive nature of these cases it is crucial that you hire a firm with the ability to fully investigate the matter.
The jury will assign a percentage of responsibility to the driver and the DRAM shop establishment and damages will be proportionately split between the two. Damages may include direct expenses, such as past and future lost wages, medical expenses, or funeral expenses. Victims may also be entitled to recover damages for pain and suffering, mental anguish, or loss of companionship. In extreme cases, where the plaintiff can prove that the establishment was grossly negligent in overserving its patron, it may be possible to collect punitive, or exemplary, damages.
Depending upon the nature of the injuries and the details of the accident, it can be difficult to quantify a victim’s damages. This is particularly true in serious injury cases, such as those resulting from DUI accidents. Given the potential severity of injuries and complex factors in these types of matters, expert witnesses play an important role in calculating damages. For instance, if a woman was paralyzed in a crash caused by a drunk driver, it may take months or years for physicians to have enough information to estimate the future costs of medical care. If she is prevented from working for the rest of her life in her current career field, vocational experts and economists may be required to determine future lost wages. If she is seeking punitive damages, various experts in restaurant and bar safety may help prove that the establishment was grossly negligent. An experienced Fort Worth dram shop liability attorney will have the resources and personnel to conduct a full investigation and retain and consult with all necessary experts to help victims receive the compensation to which they are entitled.
Texas is a comparative fault state for purposes of personal injury cases. This means that if a Fort Worth victim was no more than 50% responsible for an accident, they may still recover a portion of their damages from the more responsible defendant. The victim’s compensation will be reduced by the percentage of their liability. For example, Joe suffers a broken neck in a DUI accident caused by Bob. At trial, Bob proves that Joe was speeding at the time of the crash. The jury finds that Joe was 25% at fault. Joe’s total damages are $400,000, which are reduced by his proportion of responsibility, allowing him to recover $300,000 from Bob. This concept applies in the context of assigning fault to the defendants in DRAM shop liability cases as well. Using our previous example, Joe also sues ABC Tavern for serving Bob fifteen tequila shots for his birthday that evening. The parties will present competing information to the jury attempting to convince them the degree to which each party was responsible for the crash. If the jury finds that ABC Tavern is 50% liable, Bob is 25% liable, and Joe is 25% liable, then Joe can recover $200,000 from ABC Tavern and $100,000 from Bob.
It is also possible under Texas’ DRAM shop liability statute, for the intoxicated patron to sue the establishment directly if they were injured after being overserved alcohol. This is true even if the drunk person was partially responsible for causing their injuries. Under the theory of comparative fault, so long as the individual was not more than 50% liable, they may recover damages from the establishment. Consider the following example. Suppose Dave spends a Saturday watching college football games at a bar. He is clearly already drunk when his favorite team wins and he orders a round of shots. On his drive home, he hits a telephone pole and is seriously injured. Dave sues the bar under a liquor liability theory. The jury must decide whether Dave or the bar bore more responsibility for the incident. As one can imagine, the percentage of liability in a case such as this would be hotly contested, possibly by both sides. As long as Dave can prove that he is less at fault than the bar, he could recover a portion of his damages from the establishment.
Victims and their families should consider retaining law firms with the personnel necessary to give their case the attention it deserves. DRAM shop liability cases may involve extensive discovery periods leading up to a trial. Multiple motions, briefs, and hearings may precede the trial itself. By retaining a firm that can devote multiple attorneys to a case, you help to ensure that such issues receive the attention they deserve. This is true regardless of whether you were injured in Fort Worth or elsewhere in Texas. Contact Noteboom – The Law Firm for guidance and support in your dram shop case.