In Texas, a driver who causes an accident while under the influence of alcohol can face serious criminal penalties. It is, of course, the responsibility of a driver to make the choice to either get behind the wheel or hand over his keys. Nothing changes or alleviates the liability that rests squarely on the shoulders of a drunk driver.
But the reason that driving under the influence is illegal is because alcohol impairs judgment. Once someone’s judgment is impaired, his or her ability to recognize and reflect on that condition is affected.
So, between the driver who has already been drinking and the person responsible for providing him with alcohol, is there any shared legal and moral responsibility? The Texas dram shop rule addresses this issue directly.
What Does “Dram Shop Law” Mean?
In essence, dram shop laws force those who profit from the sale or service of alcohol to do so responsibly. It creates liability for the act of continuing to serve or provide alcohol to “visibly intoxicated” patrons or to minors. If that minor or patron then causes an accident, the seller or provider can be found partially responsible for the accident.
How Does Dram Shop Liability Work?
In Texas, if a minor is able to procure alcohol and then gets into an accident (which must be a reasonably foreseeable outcome), a person injured by that minor has the right to bring a claim both against the driver and the proprietor who sold the minor alcohol.
In the case of a legal adult, however, the law is grayer. In order to be liable, a proprietor must have continued to sell or provide alcohol to a patron who was “obviously intoxicated.” This is, therefore, a judgment call. Nevertheless, if a bartender continues to serve a person who is showing signs of intoxication, and that person then gets into an accident, liability may flow in some proportion back to that bartender.
There is also a concept of “social host” liability. If a minor is served or allowed to consume alcohol by someone who is not a parent, and that minor then drives home and causes an accident, the “social host” may be liable as well for the injuries suffered by another party.
These complex claims require a complete understanding of the dram shop laws in Texas. If you or someone you care about was hurt in an alcohol-related accident, talk to Crowe Arnold & Majors, LLP. We offer a free case evaluation to help you understand your legal rights. Contact us at (214) 231-0555.