When a Drunken Driver Injures or Kills Themself in an Accident After Being Overserved at a Bar
For the most part in discussing the Texas Dram Shop Act we have been discussing the standard scenario of a person who goes to a bar, gets drunk, the bar keeps serving him alcohol even though they know he is drunk, then goes and gets into a car and injures an innocent third party. In some cases however, there is the scenario where someone goes to a bar gets drunk, the establishment continues to overserve the obviously drunk patron, the patron gets in his car, drives off, and severely injures or kills himself. In this second scenario we are talking about the liability of the bar owner in the context of a wrongful death suit brought by the drunk drivers family or a suit brought by the driver himself. Also known as the first-party dram shop case.
First off, in order to bring and prove up a wrongful death suit against a Dallas bar, the estate of the drunk driver will have to show that the act of being overserved alcohol was the proximate cause of the drunk driver’s death. The surviving family will have to show that it was in fact the alcohol and not some other cause the created the accident. Wrongful death suits have strict statutory guidelines that need to be adhered to in order to bring suit. Additionally, comparative fault will apply, and if the driver is found to be 51% or more at fault the wrongful death suit against the dram shop will not prevail. It because of these challenges that you will need a drunk driving accident lawyer who has years of experience and has litigated hundreds of dram shop cases.
Even before the case is filed a full investigation of the accident will need to be established first since the most important aspect of the case will hinge on the proportional level of fault between the drunk driver and the drinking establishment. Police reports, physical evidence, the blood alcohol level of the driver will play important roles in establishing fault. Due to the natural effects of alcohol, if the driver was intoxicated to a point where he could not make reasonable and rational decisions this would affect the percentage of liability. If the bar itself knew or should have known that the driver was drunk through obvious warning signs such as slurred speech, impaired movement, and changes in behavior this would put more liability on the establishment than on the driver.
People who serve alcohol to patrons have a responsibility to do so reasonably. If a Dallas bar or establishment is overserving alcohol in oversized glasses or allowing people to purchase multiple shots of hard liquor in a small window of time, they should not be surprised when the patron becomes impaired and is not able to make rational decisions. Because the establishment is the one controlling the flow of alcohol they have to be held accountable to how they are distributing the liquor. Especially so when licensed bars and restaurants are serving alcohol because they have a vested financial interest in making sales. That financial interest usually comes into conflict with their legal duty the DFW Metroplex to distribute alcohol responsibly.
A family should bring a wrongful death lawsuit if a drinking establishment overserved a patron in violation of Texas state law. A recovery for the family may be muted by the adherence to the theory of comparative fault but the public policy message that retailers of alcohol should be held accountable to their customers will speak very loudly. When an individual has become intoxicated, their senses become duller and their ability to make sound decisions is impaired. When a drinking establishment takes advantage of the inebriated state of their customers and abdicated their duty and responsibility to the Dallas community, they should be held accountable for the deaths or injuries that occur as a result of their actions.