Houston Dram Shop Attorneys Fighting For DWI Accident Victims Nationwide
A dram shop lawyer is a personal injury attorney who handles claims against bars that overserves their patrons after they are obviously intoxicated. Call our Houston dram shop lawyers for a free consultation today: 800-298-0111. We help victims of accidents caused by drunk drivers across the United States.
Alcohol Sales and Liability
The sale of alcohol is a billion-dollar industry in the United States. Unfortunately, some bars put profits over safety. NHTSA reported that there were 13,384 people killed in auto collisions involving drunk drivers in 2021. Even though there are dram shop laws prohibiting the sale of alcohol to obviously intoxicated persons, many of those drunks were overserved at a bar before they got on the road and killed someone.
If someone you love was injured or killed due to a drunk driver, talk to a dram shop lawyer with our law firm about your rights today by calling 1-800-298-0111 for a free consultation. You pay nothing upfront and if we take your case, you only pay an attorney’s fees and reimburse our litigation expenses if we win your case.
Liability For Overserving Alcohol and Frequently Asked Questions
When a person is allowed to consume too much alcohol at a bar or other establishment and then goes out and causes a serious auto collision, you may have legal recourse against the establishment that overserved the drunk driver. You need to speak to a Houston Dram Shop attorney regarding your rights immediately.
What is Dram Shop Liability?
Dram Shop Liability is the legal liability that a bar, restaurant, or other sellers of alcohol have for serving alcohol to a person who has already become obviously intoxicated. States have enacted statutes to place a higher burden on those who profit off of alcohol sales to take precautions to prevent people from driving while intoxicated. These laws are known as ‘Dram Shop Acts’ and are named for the ‘Dram’ which is one measure of alcohol.
When Do I Need a Dram Shop Lawyer?
A Dram Shop lawyer may be able to help you anytime there is evidence that:
- a person drank at a place of business,
- to the extent that he became obviously intoxicated,
- was served alcohol beyond the point of obvious intoxication,
- was permitted to leave and drive away, and;
- caused an auto collision resulting in serious injuries to themselves or others.
In order to determine this, generally, you need a blood-alcohol test performed at or near the time of the collision so that the level of intoxication can be used to calculate how long the person was drunk enough to be considered obviously intoxicated. A toxicology expert retained by your Dram Shop lawyer can perform these calculations.
Who Can Bring a Dram Shop Claim?
When a bar overserves a patron resulting in a drunk driving accident, any person injured by the drunk driver’s actions has a right to bring a Dram Shop lawsuit against the place that provided the alcohol. This includes people in other cars, pedestrians, passengers in the intoxicated driver’s car, and even the intoxicated driver in some cases. If the victim is killed in the accident, his/her spouse, children, and parents have a claim. (In some states other than Texas, the siblings also have a claim.)
When is a Bar or Restaurant Liable for Overserving Alcohol to an Intoxicated Person in Texas?
Under the Texas Dram Shop Act, restaurants, bars, and other sellers of alcohol are prohibited from serving alcohol to a person who is already obviously intoxicated. A seller of alcohol is liable for overserving alcohol under the Dram Shop Act if:
- at the time the provider sold or served the alcohol, it was apparent to the provider that the recipient was obviously intoxicated to the extent he presented a clear danger to himself and others, and
- the intoxication of that individual proximately caused the damages suffered.
The injured victim and his/her dram shop lawyer have the burden of proving obviously intoxicated, causation, and damages.
What is the Statute of Limitations on a Filing Dram Shop Lawsuit?
Dram Shop statutes of limitations tend to follow the state personal injury (tort) statute of limitations. So, in Texas, the tort or personal injury statute of limitations for adults is generally two years from the date of the auto accident resulting in injuries. In some states like Louisiana, the statute of limitations runs after one year from the date of the wreck.
What is the Safe Harbor Defense to Dram Shop Liability?
Businesses that serve alcohol can avoid some responsibility for employees’ actions overserving people under the Dram Shop Act under a provision known as the Safe Harbor Defense. Under the Safe Harbor Defense, an employer cannot be held liable for the actions of its employee who sells alcohol to an obviously intoxicated person if they:
- require their employees to take a two-hour training course from the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission on alcohol serving and awareness;
- the employee who serves does, in fact, take the course, and;
- the employer does not directly or indirectly encourage the overserving of alcohol by the employees.
Who Bears the Burden of Proof on the Safe Harbor Defense?
In a civil liability case, the employer must prove that employees are required to take a two-hour training course on overserving and that the employee actually took the course. The victim and her dram shop attorney bear the burden of proving that the employer directly or indirectly encouraged the sale of alcohol to already intoxicated persons.
Are Managers/Owners Protected by the Safe Harbor Defense?
The Safe Harbor Defense is somewhat unclear as to what happens if the bar or restaurant owner or manager himself serves an obviously intoxicated person. In the case of 20281, Inc. v. Parker, the Texas Supreme Court gave some guidance on this issue. In that case, the Texas Supreme Court opined that vice-principals were the employer and not the employee for purposes of the Texas Dram Shop Act. As a result, the Texas Dram Shop Safe Harbor Defense does not even apply to protect them. While the Court gave a definition of vice-principal that clearly included persons placed in the management of all or part of another person’s business, it declined to decide whether a pool hall manager was a vice-principal in that case. However, this is likely because the case had already been decided by another issue, and giving such an opinion would likely be considered an inappropriate advisory opinion. In any event, this case is a strong indicator that management personnel will be held to a higher standard when it comes to overserving obviously intoxicated patrons.
Dram Shop Injuries
Accidents caused by drunk drivers are some of the worst accidents on the road. When a Dram Shop allows a drunk to take the wheel, he may weave across lanes, drive the wrong way, travel at unsafe speeds, or take any number of unsafe actions he might not otherwise take if sober. Some of the injuries we see as a result of these collisions include:
- Amputation/Limb Loss
- Back, Neck, and Spine Injury
- Bone Fracture
- Ruptured Spleen
- Traumatic Brain Injury
- Temporomandibular Joint Injury (TMJ)
If you have sustained serious injuries, call a Houston Dram Shop lawyer today.
Damages Available From Dram Shop Lawsuit
A Dram Shop lawsuit has the exact same damages available as are otherwise available under personal injury law and wrongful death statutes. The following are the most commonly sought damages in a dram shop lawsuit.
- Past and future medical expenses that you incur due to the injuries caused by the wreck that occurred as a result of a person being overserved and allowed to drive.
- Past and future pain, suffering, and mental anguish endured due to the collision. This may be the typical emotional and physical trauma that accompanies any injury or it may extend to emotional losses such as the loss of a loved one due to a driver being overserved.
- Past and future physical impairment suffered by the victim of a dram shop accident such as inability to carry out normal activities due to a limb loss or other permanent injury that impairs movement.
- Past and future lost earnings and earning capacity suffered by the individual harmed by the drunk driver and the Dram Shop.
- Wrongful death damages–including, funeral costs, loss of companionship, loss of support, loss of society, and emotional distress due to the loss of a loved one.
Call a Dram Shop Attorney
Dram shop claims are not just like any other car accident case. As you can imagine, evidence that proves the management in a bar or restaurant encouraged overserving of alcohol to patrons can be difficult to come by. The more time that passes, the harder it may be to find this information. This is why it is important for you to promptly hire an attorney who can take steps to preserve video recordings, credit card receipts, and other evidence before they disappear. Don’t wait another moment. Call Simmons and Fletcher, P.C. today if you or someone you love has been a victim of a drunk driving accident. (713) 932-0777.
Dramshop Lawsuit Examples in the News
The Bombshell Dramshop Case Example. Two separate DUI incidents have resulted in lawsuits being filed against the well-known sports bar Bombshells.