This is the next post in our series on the handling of liquor liability (otherwise known as “Dram shop”) cases in Fort Worth, Texas. Our last article provided an overview of topics which this series will be addressing and it also stressed the need to speak with an attorney if you or a loved one have been hit by a drunk driver. It is important that you retain an injury lawyer who has the resources necessary to deal with larger cases as such matters often involve multiple defendants. In this article we will provide an overview of how our state’s Dram shop laws work.
Texas is like most states in that it recognizes liquor, or Dram shop, liability. This is a legal principle which allows for the seller or provider of alcohol to potentially be held responsible for accidents caused by drunk drivers. 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. When selecting a personal injury lawyer for a Dram shop case we suggest hiring a firm which has an on-staff investigator and who has attorneys who are Board Certified in Personal Injury Law. These concepts apply whether you were injured in Fort Worth, Dallas, or elsewhere in the state of Texas.