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Texas Dram Shop Laws & Drunk Driving Car Accident Claims

When a drunk driver causes an auto wreck, the impaired driver is typically liable for the injuries and damage (s)he causes. The driver may not, however, be the only liable party. In fact, if a drunk driver was served – or overserved – alcohol at a bar or another establishment, the alcohol-providing establishment may also be partly liable for the accident and damages caused by the driver it served.

TX Dram Shop Laws & Car Crashes

TX Dram Shop Laws & Car Crashes

This type of retailer liability is established by dram shop laws, which have been enacted in more than 40 states across the U.S., including in Texas. Understanding how and when dram shop laws may apply to a given accident and claim is crucial to:

  • Pursuing all available legal remedies
  • Improving victims’ financial recoveries.

What Are Dram Shop Laws?

A dram shop law is a statute that establishes liability for alcohol-providing establishments when intoxicated patrons of those establishments harm others. The term dram shop refers to alcohol-serving establishments where alcohol used to be served by the dram.

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How Does the Texas Dram Shop Act Work?

Enacted in 1987, the Texas dram shop law allows the victims of drunk driving accidents to hold alcohol retailers liable for contributing to a driver’s state of intoxication.1 According to this law:

  • Alcohol retailers can include any person or establishment that sells, serves, or provides alcohol “under the authority of a license or permit.” In particular, this can include bars, taverns, restaurants, sports and concert venues, etc.
  • Victims can include other motorists, passengers in the drunk driver’s (or another driver’s) vehicle, pedestrians, and motorcyclists. They can also include families who have lost loved ones to fatal drunk driving crashes.

To establish retailer liability under the dram shop act, the victim must be able to prove that:

  1. The alcohol retailer knew or should have known that an individual “was obviously intoxicated to the extent that he presented a clear danger to himself and others.”
  2. The state of intoxication was directly responsible for a subsequent car accident and resulting injuries.

How Is “Obvious Intoxication” Established?

Various evidence can prove that driver, who was served alcohol at a retail establishment, was clearly intoxicated before getting behind the wheel. This can include (and is not limited to):

  • Receipts or credit card statements indicating the quantity of alcohol purchased
  • Eye witness accounts, describing the individual at the establishment and immediately before (s)he got behind the wheel
  • Police accident reports, which can describe slurred speech, smelling of alcohol, red eyes, and other signs of impairment immediately following a crash.

How the Texas Dram Shop Law Works: An Example

The following example clarifies how the Texas dram shop law generally works:

After consuming multiple alcoholic beverages at a bar, a person chooses to drive home. While driving, the drunk motorist runs a red light and hits a pedestrian. The police investigation for the accident indicates the motorist was drunk (via a breathalyzer test, for instance). Further investigation uncovers the facts that:

– The driver was consuming alcohol at a bar immediately before the accident occurred.

– At the bar, the driver was clearly drunk and was still being served alcohol.

Ultimately, the jury finds that the driver is 70 percent liable and the bar is 30 percent liable for the accident. With the claim valued at $100,000, the driver is ultimately liable for $70,000 while the bar is liable for $30,000.

Texas Dram Shop Law & Drunk Driving Car Accident Claims: The Bottom Line

When it comes to drunk driving accident claims, the bottom line is that the impaired driver is not necessarily the only liable party. Alcohol retailers who contributed to the driver’s state of intoxication may also be liable for an accident caused by a drunk driver.

Given that it can take additional investigations to determine whether the Texas dram shop act applies to a given claim, it’s crucial to work with an experienced attorney who can position these cases for success.

Find Out More about a Car Accident Claim: Contact a Houston Car Accident Attorney at the Amaro Law Firm Can

If you or a loved one has been hurt in a crash caused by a drunk (or otherwise negligent) driver, contact an experienced Houston car accident attorney at the Amaro Law Firm for essential insights regarding your potential claim and recovery options.

Call (713) 352-7975, text (281) 612-8024, or contact our firm for a free consultation.

With the Amaro Law Firm on your side, you can count on having extraordinary advocacy while we work diligently to help you achieve the best possible resolutions. Although money may never erase the permanent damage caused by drunk driving crashes, these financial recoveries can be integral to restoring lives.

The Amaro Law Firm’s record of extraordinary representation and success in car crash claims has earned us glowing testimonials from former clients and 5-star ratings on Google and Facebook.


1: Completed Text of the Texas Dram Shop Act