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Why Is Toxicologist Testimony So Important in Dram Shop Cases?

  • Last Updated: December 27th, 2022
  • By: Mike Grossman
  • Dram Shop

How the testimony of a toxicologist can help your Texas dram shop case.

When preparing to litigate a dram shop case, lawyers compile all kinds of evidence in order to put their client in the best possible position to recover their losses. Testimonies play a big part in this process. One type of testimony that is especially helpful in a case against a drunk driver is the testimony of a toxicologist.

In this article, we'll talk about how a testimony from a toxicologist can be important to your dram shop case.

Questions Answered on This Page:

  • What exactly is a toxicologist?
  • How can the statement from a toxicologist help my Texas dram shop case?
  • How does the testimony of a toxicologist verify the intoxication of the driver who injured me?

Why your dram case needs a toxicologist.

When a drunken driver causes injury or death to another person in an accident, Texas state law requires mandatory blood testing to be done on all of the drivers involved in order to assess their level of intoxication. This blood testing, though, usually isn't administered for at least an hour - and sometimes longer - after the accident has taken place. Due to the time elapsed, the driver's blood alcohol concentration (BAC) when it is tested is not going to be what it was when he or she got into the accident or what it was when he or she left the drinking establishment. As a result, drunken drivers can sometimes argue that they were legally intoxicated when the blood was taken two hours after the accident but not when the accident occurred.

Responding to these arguments is where the testimony of a toxicologist comes into play. In legal circles, toxicologists are most often used to testify regarding the effects of alcohol and drugs on humans. At Grossman Law Offices, we bring in toxicologists as consultants to examine the findings of blood or breath tests conducted on alleged drunken drivers. In some cases, a driver's level of intoxication won't be readily apparent based upon the BAC test results. These experts can help pinpoint what a failed test actually means and how intoxicated the driver actually was at the time the accident occurred and in some cases when he or she left the drinking establishment.

For example, a driver drinks a large amount of alcohol at a bar - enough to make him obviously drunk, but he doesn't go directly home after leaving the bar, instead taking a woman to her apartment first. On the way home from the woman's place two hours after leaving the bar, he gets into a wreck and injures another driver. When the police take his BAC, it's .11 percent, which is over the legal limit of .08 percent. On the other hand, .11 percent BAC is low enough that the drinking establishment could argue that the man wasn't obviously intoxicated when left the bar. Our attorneys would bring in a forensic toxicologist to examine the BAC test results. From the woman's testimony and that of the drunken driver, along with the time the man closed out and paid his tab at the bar, we know approximately what time the man left the bar. Factoring in this information with the man's physical characteristics (body size, speed of metabolism), the toxicologist could estimate the actual BAC level of the man when he left the bar, calling into question the drinking establishment's claim that he was not obviously drunk.

Or in another situation, a driver falsely claims he had a few shots right before getting into a car and causing an accident, when in fact he had been drinking for quite some time. While the BAC test taken later showed that he was intoxicated, the driver claims he wasn't really drunk when the accident occurred and only became so after digesting the liquor while waiting for the blood test. A toxicologist can again take into account the driver's weight and metabolism and then estimate whether or not this information is accurate or the driver could have been intoxicated when the accident occurred.

The right toxicologist is vital to your case.

Of note, a toxicologist needs to have more than his or her opinion to be effective. First and foremost, the toxicologist must be schooled in toxicology, and the accompanying fields of chemistry and biology. While a bachelor's degree or some industry experience may permit anyone to claim that he or she is an expert in court, graduate and doctoral degrees are far more compelling to a jury.

However, just understanding toxicology isn't sufficient to be an effective forensic toxicologist in a courtroom. Rather, the toxicologist must be able to convince the jury that he or she is correct in his or her assessments, and this requires both the heir of authority and strong speaking skills. The heir of authority can be gained with the proper credentials and consulting history, but the ability to communicate depends upon the personality of the toxicologist. You need someone who is an effective speaker and not just a scientist with no interpersonal skills.

Give experienced Texas dram shop attorney Michael Grossman a call:

Just using Google or the phone book, you can find a toxicologist, but you won't have any idea of how this person can actually perform in court. At Grossman Law Offices, we've been consulting with toxicologists for 25 years, and we've found some we can depend upon to be both accurate and able to sway jurors into believing their determinations. To discover more about how forensic toxicology can affect dram shop cases or to learn how we can help you get the assistance of a trustworthy toxicologist, call us now at (855) 326-0000 (toll free).

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