FAQ: Who can be held responsible in drunk driving accidents?

by Tim O’Hare

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If you have been injured or have lost a loved one in a drunk driving accident, who can be held responsible for your loss and suffering? Oftentimes in drunk driving cases, it can be difficult for the victim or the victim’s family to receive full compensation for their injury or loss from the drunk driver alone.

Though no amount of money can compensate for severe physical injury or loss of a loved one, the Dram Shop Act adds an extra layer of liability, providing victims a greater chance of receiving due compensation from responsible parties. The Dram Shop Act makes businesses that serve liquor to an individual who is obviously intoxicated or close to it, partially liable for any injuries inflicted by the drunken individual.

The Dram Shop Act has been around in some form or another since the 19th century, but many states have revised the Act to suit their own individual beliefs on a bar or restaurant’s liability. Only eight states do not have a Dram Shop Act in place, meaning they do not believe a bar or restaurant should be held liable for the actions of its patrons.

Most states in the U.S. have enacted some form of the Dram Shop Act, though California recently enacted a law to the contrary. In Texas, the Dram Shop Act can be used to sue a bar or restaurant for compensation for injury or loss resulting in a drunk driving accident. If a restaurant or bar serves someone who is intoxicated, and that person then gets behind the wheel and causes an accident, the restaurant or bar could be found liable. However, in such cases, a restaurant or bar can only be held partially liable.  Under Texas Dram Shop Laws, there could be multiple “proximate cause” parties in one drunk driving case. For the success of a lawsuit, is important that all liable parties be named.

Bars and restaurants in the state of Texas do have a defense under the Dram Shop Act. The “Safe Harbor” defense allows the establishment to not be held liable provided they have met three requirements.

  • Employees of said establishment must have been required to receive certification from a TABC approved training program.
  • The employee must have actually attended that program.
  • The employer must not have encouraged the employee to violate the Dram Shop Act.

If these provisions are in place, a bar or restaurant may escape liability for serving alcohol to a patron who then decided to drink and drive.

If you have been injured in an accident caused by a drunk driver, or you have lost a family member due to drunk driving, contact the experienced legal team at The Law Offices of Tim O’Hare.  We will help you receive all due compensation for your injury and loss.

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