What Is the Dram Shop Law in Texas?

Bartender hands patron a drink. | Patrick Daniel Law
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The Dram Shop Law in Texas was implemented as a way to curb the drunk driving problem in our state. In 1987, the Texas Dram Shop Act was signed into law. Instead of a drunk driver bearing all of the responsibility—and therefore all of the liability—for accidents caused by their intoxication, this statute made it possible for other parties to bear some or all of the responsibility.

Though this law exists in some form in most other states, Texans need to review our statute, including who is typically held liable, what exceptions exist, the damages in dram shop cases, and more. The more you know about the Dram Shop Law in Texas, the better prepared you are should the worst come to pass.

If you or a loved one has been involved in a drunk driving accident, the dram shop liability lawyer at Patrick Daniel Law is here for you. Call us at (713) 999-6666 to schedule a FREE case evaluation. Let’s determine if you have a viable claim and pursue the justice you deserve.

What Is the Texas Dram Shop Law?

The Dram Shop Law in Texas states that anyone who is licensed or permitted to sell alcohol in Texas can be sued for damages if:

  1. The individual they were selling or providing alcohol to “was obviously intoxicated to the extent that he presented a clear danger to himself and others.”
  2. The intoxication caused by the alcoholic beverages directly led to damages.

While this most clearly applies to drunk driving, it could apply to any personal injury situation where someone sustains damages. For example, if someone is attacked by a drunk person who became increasingly aggressive as they drank, the attack victim may be able to pursue compensation against the party that sold or served the alcohol.

Who Is Typically Liable Under the Dram Shop Law in Texas?

The Dram Shop Law applies to anyone licensed or permitted to sell alcohol to people, which includes:

  • Bars
  • Liquor stores
  • Restaurants
  • Convenience stores
  • Grocery stores
  • Hotels
  • And more

While this would not generally apply to someone becoming intoxicated at, for example, a friend’s house—since the friend is not licensed or permitted to sell alcohol in Texas—under the social host liability statute, adults who provide alcohol to minors who then cause damages may be held liable.

These laws can be complicated, and we recommend speaking with a dram shop liability attorney if you believe you have a claim. They can determine whether it is viable and create a strategy to protect your rights.

What Is the Safe Harbor Provision in Texas Dram Shop Law?

The Safe Harbor Provision keeps bars and other businesses selling alcohol from being held liable under the Dram Shop Statute provided a few things hold true:

  1. They require employees to attend approved training programs
  2. The employees attend the training program
  3. The employer does not directly or indirectly encourage employees to break such law (for example, encouraging employees to over-serve or failing to discipline employees when they do)

Hence, even if an individual bartender decides to continue serving an intoxicated patron, if the bar owner took the appropriate measures to keep this from happening, they may not be held liable for any damages caused.

Potential Damages in Dram Shop Cases

The damages in a dram shop case are the same you would see in most personal injury claims, including:

  • Economic Damages: Such as medical bills, lost wages, and out-of-pocket expenses
  • Non-Economic Damages: Including pain and suffering, loss of consortium, and loss of enjoyment of life
  • Punitive Damages: These damages are occasionally awarded to plaintiffs as a means of punishing the malicious or extremely negligent behavior of defendants

When working with your dram shop attorney, it is essential to carefully consider each of these categories, especially the first two. Every expense or loss must be considered when calculating your potential recovery.

What Is the Statute of Limitations for the Dram Shop Law in Texas?

Statutes of limitations are time limits that apply to most types of legal matters. They state that legal action must be initiated within a specific time frame after an incident occurs.

In the case of dram shop cases in Texas, the statute of limitations is 2 years from the date of the accident. If you fail to file legal action before 2 years elapse, you will most likely be unable to pursue compensation for your damages. Exceptions rarely apply, so we encourage anyone considering legal action to begin the process as quickly as possible.

How Can I Prove Liability Under the Texas Dram Shop Statute?

To win compensation for a dram shop case, you must prove a few key things:

  • That the alcohol was served, sold, or provided to the individual
  • That the individual was visibly intoxicated (that is, the person serving them knew they were drunk)
  • The alcohol served by the individual or establishment was the cause of the accident and subsequent damages

Proving this may seem complicated. Evidence can vary from case to case but may include:

  • Video footage
  • Eyewitness testimony
  • Receipts
  • Medical documentation
  • Social media
  • And more

A thorough investigator will also take a close look at the practices of the bar or establishment. For example, do they serve high-volume drinks intended to intoxicate patrons quickly? Is the bar known to be a place where people get drunk?

To win a dram shop liability case, each factor should be fully considered and weighed to ensure the strongest case possible is built on your behalf.

Can a Lawyer Help Me with a Texas Dram Shop Claim?

Yes, an experienced dram shop liability lawyer can often provide significant value when pursuing a claim. They can help not only with evaluating your unique situation and advising you on the best path forward but also by:

  • Investigating the incident
  • Gathering evidence
  • Interviewing witnesses
  • Consulting with subject matter experts
  • Negotiating with insurance companies
  • Filing all necessary paperwork

In some cases, the insurance company will offer a fair settlement, which is often the simplest way of recovering compensation. That said, it would disallow you from filing any future legal action. You should usually only accept a settlement offer if it adequately covers your damages.

Contact the Dram Shop Liability Lawyer at Patrick Daniel Law!

At Patrick Daniel Law, we are relentless advocates for injured accident victims in Houston and throughout Texas. When those selling or serving alcohol place their profits above others’ safety, we believe they should be held liable for the consequences of their actions.

If you believe you have a claim against a restaurant, bar, liquor store, or another party under Dram Shop Law in Texas, contact our Houston dram shop lawyer to schedule your FREE case review.

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