Is a Bar Responsible for a Drunk Driver?

Bar Responsibilities Under the Dram Shop Law | Patrick Daniel Law
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Drunk driving is fundamentally irresponsible. Thousands of people are killed each year in accidents caused by drivers who make the selfish decision to have “one too many” and get behind the wheel.

Those who have been injured or lost loved ones in drunk driving accidents can generally recover compensation through a claim against the drunk driver. But what if the driver’s insurance company denies coverage, or your losses exceed the limits of the insurance policy?

It is important to explore all of your legal options after an accident with a drunk driver. In addition to filing a claim against the driver, you may have additional rights under the Texas dram shop law.

Patrick Daniel Law has extensive experience handling drunk driving accident claims throughout Houston and other areas of Texas. Contact us today for a free review of your case.

Suing a Bar for Injury

Bars, restaurants, and other establishments that serve alcohol to customers are required to do so responsibly. This obligation means that vendors:

  • Are prohibited from selling alcoholic beverages to someone who is visibly intoxicated
  • Have to stop selling alcohol to a guest who is exhibiting signs of intoxication
  • Must check IDs to ensure that customers are legally allowed to consume alcohol

If a bar or other establishment fails in one or more of these duties, the business can be held liable for injuries caused by an intoxicated patron.

Proving Liability in a Drunk Driving Accident Claim

The majority of dram shop claims arise from car accidents. However, the dram shop law also assigns liability to the establishment for other types of injuries an individual who is overserved may cause, such as falls, physical assaults, and more.

The success of a dram shop liability claim is contingent on your ability to prove (a) that the bar was negligent in serving the customer and (b) that this negligence contributed to the wrongful acts of the drunk individual that led to your injuries and subsequent damages. Negligence on the part of a bar may involve:

  • Lack of training for staff to recognize potential signs of intoxication
  • Lack of procedures for when to cut off service of alcohol to a patron
  • Staff turning a blind eye to customers’ overconsumption
  • Owners or managers incentivizing drink sales without instructing workers to discontinue service if a guest appears to be visibly intoxicated
  • Failure to check guest IDs, resulting in service of alcohol to an underage customer

You will need to furnish proof of negligence on the part of the bar and its employees to recover compensation. Potential evidence in your case may include witness testimony, surveillance footage of the drunk patron when he or she is in the establishment or leaving therefrom, and more.

The Human Cost of Drunk Driving

Drunk drivers face a wide range of criminal penalties. Those convicted of a first offense DWI may be fined up to $2,000, sentenced to a maximum six months in jail, and lose their driving privileges for up to one year. Fines, prison time, and license suspension all increase with each subsequent conviction.

A drunk driver who causes an accident that injures another person may be convicted of intoxication assault, a third-degree felony that can carry a prison sentence of up to 10 years. Similarly, drunk drivers who cause accidents in which someone dies may be convicted of intoxication manslaughter – a second-degree felony carrying a prison sentence of up to 20 years.

When drunk drivers cause accidents, they also face civil liability for the losses suffered by the victim(s). The effects of drunk driving can result in high-speed crashes, head-collisions, and other serious accidents. As a result, victims of drunk driving accidents often sustain serious and catastrophic injuries that can cost them tens of thousands of dollars (if not more), as well as significant pain and suffering.

The most substantial cost of drunk driving, however, is loss of life. In 2020, the Texas Department of Transportation recorded a total of 1,761 DUI crashes in the state. These crashes resulted in the deaths of 1,988 people.

It is impossible to assign an accurate monetary value to the loss of someone’s loved one. The financial impact is exceeded many times over by the mental and emotional anguish felt by the surviving family members. Although no amount of money can replace a deceased relative, families can recover compensation through one or more wrongful death claims.

Were You Hit by a Drunk Driver?

Bars and other establishments can be held liable for personal injury or wrongful death in a dram shop claim. However, proving such a claim can be difficult. It is in your best interest to contact an attorney as soon as possible.

The team at Patrick Daniel Law has extensive experience handling claims involving drunk driving accidents. In addition to building a case against the drunk driver, attorney Patrick Daniel and his staff will investigate to determine the liability of the bar that served alcohol to the defendant.

For a free case evaluation, please call Patrick Daniel Law at (713) 999-6666 today. Attorney Patrick Daniel handles drunk driving accidents and dram shop liability claims in Houston and other areas of Texas.

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