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When Do Fatal Drunk Driving Accidents Allow Victims to Sue Bars?

  • Last Updated: March 3rd, 2023
  • By: Mike Grossman
  • Dram Shop

How A Fatal Dram Shop Case Works In Texas

When an innocent person is killed by a drunk driver who was over-served by a bar, the victim's family members can file a typical negligence-based wrongful death claim against the driver and a third-party dram shop wrongful death lawsuit against the bar. Here's how it works:

As introduced in a previous article by our drunk driving accident lawyers, only select members of a deceased person's family can bring a wrongful death claim against the bar, club, restaurant, or other establishment that knowingly over-served a patron. Knowing this is crucial then in approaching a fatal drunk driving accident.

In this article, attorney Michael Grossman will explain how wrongful death cases work in a Texas Dram Shop accident.

Questions answered on this page:

  • How do wrongful death claims work in Texas Dram Shop cases?
  • Who can bring forth a wrongful death claim in a Texas Dram Shop case?
  • What can an experienced attorney do to make sure that I win my Dram Shop case?

How Wrongful Death Claims Work in Dram Shop Cases

Before discussing who can file a dram shop claim in a wrongful death case, it's important that we have a basic understanding of how wrongful death claims work in dram shop cases. Texas law treats wrongful death claims in dram shop cases just like traditional wrongful death cases. Specifically, Texas law requires wrongful death claimants to prove:

  1. Their loved one's death was caused by the conduct or behavior of another;
  2. The person or entity acted negligently or grossly negligent (in dram shop cases, this is usually shown when an establishment allows a patron to leave and operate a motor vehicle after knowingly over-serving them alcohol);
  3. There are surviving beneficiaries (discussed in detail below); and
  4. These beneficiaries have suffered monetary and/or emotional damages as a result of their loved one's death.

Read here for more information regarding the types of compensation available in a wrongful death dram shop case.

Who Can Bring a Wrongful Death Claim?

Texas law may permit the spouse, children, and parents recover compensation from the establishment whose over-service of a patron was a cause of their loved one's passing. It's important to note that these are the exclusive claimants, meaning that siblings, cousins, and so on are prevented from bringing a lawsuit under Texas' wrongful death laws, regardless of how close of a relationship they shared. We'll discuss the nuances and each claimant below.

Spouse of the Deceased

The first eligible claimant is the spouse of the deceased. As long as they obtained a marriage license and never formally or informally divorced their spouse, they are eligible to file a wrongful death suit under Texas law.

However, one does not necessarily have to be married in a formal ceremony before a priest or judge to become married. Texas law allows "common law" spouses to recover the same as those who were married in a formal ceremony. However, Texas law requires a person claiming to be a common law spouse to prove the following stringent requirements before recovering from a wrongful defendant:

  1. You must have "agreed to be married" (note that this agreement does not need to be in writing;
  2. After the agreement is made, they must live together in Texas as husband and wife (contrary to popular belief, there is no minimum time frame which a couple must live together, but a longer period of time helps their claim); and
  3. They must represent to others they are married (such as by introducing themselves to others as married, filing a joint tax return, etc.).

Children of the Deceased

The second eligible claimant are the children - natural and adopted - of the deceased. Importantly, children are defined in terms of their familial affiliation, not their age. Thus, the child of the deceased, regardless of their age, can pursue compensation in a wrongful death claim stemming from a dram shop case.

Parents of the Deceased

Finally, parents of the deceased are eligible to file a wrongful death claim in a dram shop lawsuit to recover compensation for the economic and emotional injuries they've suffered as a result of their child's death. Importantly, this includes both step-parents and adoptive parents.

The Common Thread to Winning a Wrongful Death Claim in a Dram Shop Case is an Aggressive and Experienced Attorney

If you've recently lost a loved one due - at least in part, to the over-service of a patron by a restaurant, bar, or club - our experienced dram shop attorneys may be able to help you recover the compensation you deserve.

The wrongful death lawyers of Grossman Law Offices have proudly represented wrongful death victims in dram shop cases for 25 years and have developed a reputation of success. For more information and a free and confidential consultation based on the facts of your case, give us a toll-free call at (855) 326-0000.

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