When a drunk driver crashes into a motorist or pedestrian, the injured victim can sue the intoxicated driver. But what happens if the driver has no insurance or assets to pay compensation?
Fortunately, Texas has a dram shop law in place that might prove useful. Dram shops are any establishment where alcohol is sold and consumed. Examples include bars, taverns, and restaurants. Texas’ dram shop law will hold the establishment liable for injuries if they sell to an obviously intoxicated customer.
What You Must Prove
In some states, a bar or tavern is automatically liable for any injuries if they sell alcohol to someone who is intoxicated. But Texas has set the bar a little higher. To use the dram shop law, you must prove that the customer was visibly or obviously intoxicated when they were sold alcohol. In other words, the bar or tavern should have known that they were selling alcohol to someone who was already a risk to themselves and others.
A bartender does not have to admit that they actually knew the customer was intoxicated. Instead, it is enough that the bartender or waitress should have known the patron was intoxicated. Evidence might include:
- The customer’s speech was slurred
- The customer’s eyes were bloodshot
- The customer’s breath already smelled of alcohol
- Someone told the bartender/waitress that the customer had been drinking
- The customer was unsteady on their feet
- The customer consumed so much alcohol at the establishment that a normal person would be intoxicated
You also need to prove that the sale of alcohol was a proximate cause of your injuries. This is usually easy, especially if you were injured by a drunk driver, since the accident is probably the obvious source of your injuries.
Who Can Bring a Lawsuit under the Dram Shop Law?
Dram shop laws protect a wide range of people, including:
- Motorists or pedestrians hit by a drunk driver
- Passengers riding with a drunk driver
- The drunk driver him or herself
This last one might surprise you, but it is true. Someone who is intoxicated can have a dram shop claim for injuries they have suffered if they can show that the bartender/waiter should have known they were drunk but continued to serve them anyway.
Realize that even if the drunk driver has insurance, you can still sue the establishment that violated the dram shop law. It isn’t an either/or situation. You can sue both.
However, the establishment will only be liable in damages based on their percentage of fault. So if the driver is 80% responsible for your injuries, then the dram shop might only be 20% liable. This means the dram shop will pay you less in compensation.
This is a complicated area of law, and you would be best served by meeting with a seasoned drunk driving accident lawyer in Austin. DC Law has served the Austin area for years, and we are always available to meet with potential clients.