Drunk Driving Car Accidents: Dram Shop Laws


Whenever the service of alcohol to an already intoxicated individual causes an accident, the individual or his/her immediate family could have a claim against the bar, this was the case when a 44-year-old married father of three was overserved at a Houston restaurant and he was killed when the car he was driving collided with a utility pole.

Relatives of the Texas man sued the establishment alleging that the bar’s employees over-served him and were responsible for the accident. When are bars liable for injuries caused by overserved patrons, and what are so-called “dram shop” laws?

Dram Laws and Limitations

Dram Shop laws generally allow DUI victims or their families to sue alcohol sellers or retailers for monetary damages to compensate for injuries or wrongful death. Texas, however, has strict limits on the bar and alcoholic beverage server liability. Declaring “the consumption of intoxicating beverages, rather than serving, supplying, or selling such beverages, is the proximate cause of any injury, including death and property damage, inflicted by an intoxicated person on himself or another person,”. The statute provides that the “intoxicated person shall be primarily responsible” for any injury they cause, unless a reasonable person under the same or similar circumstances knows that the person served is already intoxicated at the time of serving.

It is possible in this case that the establishment’s staff knew that the patron was already intoxicated when he was treated.

Given this event, you may have some questions about how dram shop laws work. Next, we explain it by answering some questions:

What are Dram Shop Laws?

As noted above, dram shop laws can vary from state to state, and while some may create liability for alcohol servers, others may limit that liability or throw most of the liability off, by placing the blame on the drinker.

Typically, a plaintiff will need to show that the bar supplied alcohol to the customer, that the servers were (or should have been) aware that the customer was intoxicated, that the customer hurt someone, and that alcohol or intoxication played a role in the injuries.

When are bars responsible for accidents caused by serving alcohol in excess?

Obviously, it can be difficult to tell if a customer is intoxicated, and many waiters are reluctant to interrupt someone, especially if they are regulars. But many factors can come into play, such as how much contact staff had with the customer during their visit, and whether they knew the user would be driving.

I was overserved at a bar, can I sue?

Most dram shop laws, including Texas, address injury to a third party by an intoxicated person. But what if that intoxicated person is you and you get hurt? That could depend on where you live. Texas, for example, allows patrons to sue bars for overservice, while other states, such as New York expressly prohibit such lawsuits. And even if you are allowed to sue, your own liability could limit how much you can win.

Deaths from Accidents Caused by Drunk Drivers.

Drunk drivers are one of the biggest threats on the roads. Although a car accident can be traumatic in any circumstance, accidents caused by drunk drivers are often fatal. Deaths resulting from these accidents usually stem from the driver’s inability to control the speed or direction of the vehicle.

A 2021 report issued by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) revealed that more than 32 percent of highway deaths were caused by accidents caused by drunk drivers.

Why Do Victims of Dram Shop Cases Need a Lawyer?

Generally, victims of intoxication caused by a third-party face severe stress. Factors that contribute to stress can be physical pain, mental distress, emotional trauma, and financial distress.

PMR Law’s attorneys can help victims of these cases with their recovery process. Our attorneys have years of experience handling these types of cases. Our lawyers fought hard for the case referenced at the beginning of this post, securing compensation for the man’s wife and three children for his loss and the damages they suffered from his death. Our experienced attorneys know the strategies that insurance companies use to try to pay less or to have a victim’s claim declared invalid.

Additionally, victims of drunk-driving-related accidents are eligible to receive an additional benefit from the Texas Crime Victims Compensation Fund. This benefit is an essential, yet often overlooked, support component for crime victims.

The primary purpose of the Fund is to encourage greater victim participation in the apprehension and prosecution of criminals and to reimburse innocent victims for certain out-of-pocket expenses incurred because of a violent crime.

The Texas state government sets aside money from the Compensation to Victims of Crime Fund for the Crime Victims’ Compensation (CVC) Program. Revenue for the Fund is collected from convicted offenders through criminal court costs, fees, and fines, while victims of violence are assisted with expenses related to the crime.

In Texas, a very important fact to consider is that both documented and undocumented immigrants can receive compensation if they are victims of a violent crime. This is possible by receiving an ITIN Number (Individual Tax Identification Number).

Settlements and Court Verdicts Related to Accidents Caused by Drunk Drivers.

Victims of accidents caused by drunk driving can obtain a settlement from the at-fault driver, a third party that was responsible, and insurance companies. Compensation can be a result of a jury verdict or an out-of-court settlement. These payments may also be for expenses and pain related to an accident including:

– Repair or replacement of the vehicle

– Visits to the hospital

– Medical consultations

– Surgical procedures

– Pre- and post-operative medical care

– Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation

– Psychological attention

– Future medical expenses

– Current income loss (salary)

– Loss of future income

– Pain and suffering

– Punitive damages

It is important that you know your rights regarding Claims Related to accidents where alcohol consumption played a role.

Hire Lawyers Who Understand the Dram Shop Laws

We welcome the opportunity to review your potential case under the Dram Shop Laws. Call PMR Law at 832-844-6428 today to schedule a free and confidential consultation with a lawyer who will tirelessly fight for your legal rights.

PMR Law is considered one of the Best Law Firms in America, by Rue Ratings. Several of our attorneys have been given the honor of being named Super Lawyers by Thomson Reuters. The American Institute of Personal Injury Attorneys has named our attorneys 10 Best in Client Satisfaction. Speaking of personal injury, Attorney and Practice Magazine awarded our attorneys with Top 10 Personal Injury Attorney distinctions. The National Trial Lawyers have named three of our attorneys as Top 100 attorneys. The Academy of Attorneys has named two of our attorneys as Top 40 Under 40. Our attorneys have been recognized as Best Attorneys of America, by Rue Ratings. PMR Law is a proud member of the Multi-Million Dollar Advocate Forum. Houstonia Magazine has named two of our attorneys as Top Lawyers in Personal Injury.

Texas Lawyer magazine has named PMR Law as the #1 Personal Injury Law Firm in Houston.