The Dram Shop Act and Drunk Driving in Texas

by Tim O’Hare

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Most states across the country have enacted some form of the Dram Shop Act, which holds bars or restaurants partially responsible in injuries or deaths resulting from drunk driving. 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.

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. The Dram Shop Act adds an extra layer of liability, and therefore, for victims, a better chance at obtaining due compensation from responsible parties.

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. (Proximate cause is the legal term referring to a liable party that was not directly responsible for the act.) 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.

Texas leads the nation in drunk driving deaths, and drunk driving is especially prevalent Holidays and special occasions such as St. Patrick’s Day, New Year’s Eve and Superbowl Sunday. Stay safe this St. Patrick’s Day by planning to have a designated driver or take public transportation to and from your St. Patrick’s Day celebration.

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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