How Comparative Fault Works in Cases Against Bars
When a drunk driver causes an accident, many people are impacted. Not just the driver and the occupants of the vehicle they hit, but families and friends of those who were in the accident will also feel the weight of the incident. This is a sensitive time, emotions run high, and everyone wants to know who is to blame. So what happens if multiple parties are held liable?
If an alcohol-related lawsuit is brought before a jury, the jury will assign fault to all liable parties, and they will assign fault in the form of a percentage. This is known as Comparative Fault. In this article, we will explain how comparative fault works in Texas and how it could affect your dram shop case.
Questions answered on this page:
- How can a bar be responsible after an alcohol-related accident?
- What is comparative fault?
- How can a lawyer help me with my drunk driving case?
How Can a Bar be Held Responsible for Someone Else's Actions?
First and foremost, the bar is not held responsible for the actions of the drunk driver. However, the bar is liable for serving an already intoxicated person, and the drunk driver is held responsible for driving under the influence. At that point, it is up to the jury to ultimately decide to what degree of responsibility each party will be held responsible. This is called comparative fault.
What is Comparative Fault?
"Comparative Fault" is the term for Texas' proportionate responsibility scheme. The jury divides fault between the parties involved in the accident by percentage. For instance, if the jury were to find a drunk driver 60% responsible and the bar that served him 40% responsible for damages, that is the percentage they would be responsible for paying to the plaintiff for their damages.
Let's look at a couple different examples of how this could come into play:
- Let's say Jeff lost his job and decides to go to a bar with the intention of getting absolutely plastered. While at the bar he's vocal about the fact that he intends to drink everyone under the table. The bar continues to serve Jeff past the appropriate point because he's had a rough day. Later on as Jeff is driving home, he fails to slow down at a stop light, rear-ending the car in front of him injuring the passengers.
- At the other extreme, Meredith turned 21 today. She meets her friends at a bar for a celebratory drink. After the bar realizes it's her birthday, they shower her with drinks past the point of intoxication. She is falling down drunk, gets into her car to drive herself home. On her way home she drifts out of her lane, running another car off the road injuring the passengers.
In the first example, juries would likely still find both Jeff and the bar responsible, but it is also likely that Jeff will be held more responsible for the injuries resulting from the accident. He went to the bar with the voiced intention of getting drunk, the bar still over-served him, but Jeff made poor decisions when he was of sound mind that put events into motion.
With Meredith's example, the bar clearly took a key role in the severity of Meredith's drunkenness. She did have the intention of drinking, but it was the servers that put her over the edge. Likely in a situation like this, the jury would more harshly deal with the bar over Meredith. That's how comparative liability works against bars.
Call Grossman Law Offices for Help with Your Dram Shop Case
Our experienced Texas dram shop attorneys at Grossman Law Offices, based in Dallas, TX, have won more dram shop cases than most firms in the state of Texas. If you or someone you know has been hurt or killed in an accident with a drunk driver, give us a call to discuss the possibilities of your case. Call us at (855) 326-0000 for a free consultation.
Related Articles for Further Reading:
- What Compensation Is Available to Victims of Unlawful Alcohol Service?
- Liquor Liability Litigation Strategy
- Who Can Be Sued Under the Texas Dram Shop Act?