Texas Dram Shop Law in Relation to Drunk Driving Accidents
In the State of Texas, roughly 1,500 people die per year in drunk driving accidents. While that number isn’t as large as it used to be before the state started cracking down on drunken driving in the late 1980s and early 1990s, it’s still way too high. Any amount of drunken driving fatalities is too many.
Covered in This Article
- Why are Dram Shop Laws Important?
- What are Dram Shop Laws?
- Challenges to Filing a Dram Shop Lawsuit
- Pursuable Damages in a Dram Shop Lawsuit
- We’re Here to Help
In order to reduce the amount of drunken driving accidents that occur, Texas has passed Dram Shop laws requiring businesses that sell alcohol, or anyone supplying alcohol, to take reasonable care when dispensing potentially intoxicating beverages. When the drinking establishment (or dram shop) neglects to fulfill its duty of serving alcohol in a responsible fashion, then it can be held liable for injuries or fatalities caused by drunk patrons who were over-served at the bar or restaurant. In other words, the injured victims or grieving family members of drunk driving accidents in San Antonio could pursue compensation with a dram shop lawsuit.
At Grossman Law Offices, our DWI accident attorneys take our job of helping reduce the amount of intoxicated driving accidents in this state very seriously, so we want you to understand the need for dram shop laws and what it takes to file (and win) a dram shop lawsuit.
Why are Dram Shop Laws Important?
Not only are thousands of people injured and killed every year in Texas drunk driving accidents, but there’s also countless millions of dollars in damage inflicted upon property. Just pursuing legal action against the drunken drivers themselves does very little to stem the problem. Many of them just continue to make the same mistakes.
Some other action is necessary to reduce the amount of drunken drivers in San Antonio. Thus, while the state of Texas allows businesses to sell alcohol, it also compels them to serve booze in a reasonably responsible fashion. In this way, drinking establishments can stop drunken drivers before they become intoxicated and drive; instead of, merely having laws intended to clean up the mess after a wreck has happened.
What are Dram Shop Laws?
Now, you’re likely wondering what the laws are regarding the legal service of alcohol. In order to sell alcohol in Texas legally, a bar or restaurant must first hold a license to serve alcohol. Then, to avoid liability for the actions of its patrons, the drinking establishment must require that all of its employees attend training from a Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission-approved training class on the duties involved with the responsible service of alcohol. On top of requiring the training, the bar or restaurant must ensure everyone actually attends the training, and that they take their own tests and pass the classes.
In these training sessions, the drinking establishment’s employees will receive training on TABC policies for responsible service. First and foremost, a bar should not continue service to a patron who has become noticeably intoxicated. The servers in the bar or restaurant are therefore expected to keep a diligent watch for patrons who have become drunk, and this means observing changes in their appearance or behavior. Depending upon the specific individual, people exhibit many different symptoms of drunkenness: trouble in balancing or walking, aggressive behavior, loud talking, slurring words, disheveled appearance, blood-shot eyes, falling asleep, spilling drinks, overtly sexual behavior, or staring into space. Servers must be on the lookout for these tell-tale signs of intoxication. Although, some bar patrons, particularly habitual drinkers, can be adept at concealing the external signs of intoxication. In that event, a responsible server needs to keep an eye on the patron’s tab. Even if a customer doesn’t appear drunk, the fact that a female drank six shots in the past two hours should indicate she’s intoxicated.
Once a patron has been identified as having become intoxicated, then service should be stopped immediately, and the bar or restaurant should have some sort of system in place for assisting the patron in getting home safely.
While you may think these dram shop laws enter into overkill by holding drinking establishments liable for failing to have all of their employees attend TABC training (since only wait staff and bartenders will actually do the serving) you’re not considering the whole picture. There may be an occasion where a hostess observes a patron fall down drunk when walking to the bathroom. In that event, the hostess needs to know the TABC guidelines and expectations that service should be cut off and a cab called for the patron before they become a danger to themselves or others.
Challenges to Filing a Dram Shop Lawsuit in Texas
While you have the right to seek compensation from a San Antonio bar or restaurant after being injured in an accident with an intoxicated driver, or losing a loved one due to the actions of a drunken driver, you must be able to convince the court that the bar or restaurant was negligent. Accomplishing that feat usually requires the assistance of a San Antonio drunk driving accident attorney who has dealt with many other cases, because you need someone who knows how to investigate and find the evidence you need.
At Grossman Law Offices, our San Antonio drunk driving accident lawyers have litigated countless dram shop cases in our more than two decades of business. Thus, we understand the necessities involved with a successful investigation – the first being sending a spoliation of evidence notice to the drinking establishment’s management. This notifies them that they’re being sued, instructs them not to destroy any evidence they may have, and asks them to furnish our attorneys with a complete list of all employees who were working on the night of the drunk driving accident. In the event that the bar or restaurant ignores the spoliation letter and disposes of evidence, then this could lead to a motion of summary judgment in your favor.
Next, we begin investigating by questioning bar patrons and employees to see what we can learn about the drunken driver’s state of intoxication before leaving the bar in order to determine whether he or she was so drunk that the servers should have noticed it. We also examine the drinking establishment’s records to determine if it can prove that all of its employees received TABC training.
Over the span of time we’ve been dealing with these types of cases, we’ve seen dram shop laws evolve from principles that were just recognized by common law, to legal concepts that were codified within Texas’ state law. We’ve also seen our methods of investigation evolve with the times. On top of questioning witnesses and reviewing records, we request copies of surveillance tapes that can show how intoxicated the drunken driver appeared to be in the presence of servers. Videos can also show the servers handing the driver drink after drink. We can take advantage of technology to check the driver’s cell phone records or social media activity in order to find drinking companions who can testify to the driver’s level of intoxication before leaving the bar. Finally, we can subpoena the driver’s bank or credit card records to prove how much alcohol he or she purchased before leaving the bar.
Our Bexar County attorneys know that a dram shop case can’t be won without a significant amount of evidence to establish the negligence of the bar’s servers.
In order to avoid being found liable, a drinking establishment will usually argue the Trained Server defense (AKA Safe Harbor defense): that it trained its employees adequately and those employees did everything they could to detect obvious signs of intoxication in the patron. However, our lawyers have never been beaten by the Safe Harbor defense. Never.
In other cases, the defense may admit its liability but still challenge the amount of damages you’re requesting. When it comes to drunk driving accidents, both the intoxicated driver and the drinking establishment who served him can be found to be contributorily negligent for the accident. Thus, they’re both held accountable for damages according to the degree the court determines each party caused the accident. In this event, the defense can argue in terms of being less negligent than the driver. Our San Antonio drunk driving accident attorneys will take action to make sure the drinking establishment is still made to pay its fair share of compensation.
Pursuable Damages in a Dram Shop Lawsuit
Now we come to the subject of what damages (money for losses) you can seek with a dram shop lawsuit.
If your loved one was killed by a drunken driver, then you and your family can sue for both wrongful death damages and survival damages. The husband or wife, children, mother and father of the deceased may all pursue wrongful death damages, which enable them to pursue compensation for their individual suffering as a result of their loved one’s demise. Wrongful death damages can include benefits for:
A drinking establishment that makes the choice to ignore a spoliation of evidence letter and destroys evidence could enable you to gain even more in damages, as the court is likely to assign Death Sentence exemplary damages as punishment for the transgression.
- Emotional pain and mental trauma caused by the death
- Loss of financial support
- Loss of parental services for a child losing a parent
- Loss of child’s services for a parent losing a child
- Loss of spousal services
- Psychological counseling
- Loss of consortium
- Punitive damages
Conversely, only the closest living relative of the deceased or the personal representative of the estate can file a claim for survival damages, which are designed to compensate the family of the deceased for his or her suffering before death. Survival damages may include benefits for:
- Medical and funeral fees
- Pain and suffering felt during the wreck
- Emotional trauma caused by the act of dying
- Punitive measures
- Property damage
If you’re injured in a drunken driving accident, then your San Antonio lawyer can pursue compensation for:
- Medical expenses
- A percentage of lost wages during recuperation time
- Damage to property
- Pain and suffering felt during the accident
- Mental anguish caused by the strain of rehab
- Long-term injuries which could have an impact on your quality of life and ability to work
Notably, a drinking establishment which makes the choice to ignore a spoliation of evidence letter and destroys evidence could enable you to gain even more in damages, as the court is likely to assign “Death Sentence” exemplary damages as punishment for the transgression.
We’re Here to Help
If you’ve been injured or someone dear to you has been killed in a drunken driving accident, then you already have enough to worry about. You simply don’t have the capability to conduct a thorough investigation & build a strong case against the negligent drinking establishment. Nor do you have the ability to take the evidence found and use it to devise and execute a winning trial strategy — or force a fair settlement from the defense.
At Grossman Law Offices, we have 24 years experience dealing with dram shop cases, so you can be confident that we will uncover the evidence you need and then use it to deliver the compensation you deserve. To learn more about how we can be of assistance, call us now for a free consultation at 1-855-393-0000 (toll free).