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Common Dram Shop Scenarios: Drunk Drivers Hurts Others

We get calls all the time from clients who are having to maneuver their ways through dram shop cases after being injured by a drunken driver. More often than not, these cases surround scenarios where a drunk driver has injured someone else after leaving somewhere like a bar or restaurant that over-served them. In Texas, bars can face civil liability when the serve alcohol to an obviously intoxicated person who later causes injuries due to their intoxication.

In this article, experienced dram shop attorney Michael Grossman takes a close look at the damages available to you, common scenarios involving drunk driving accidents, and how to get your Texas dram shop claim started.


Questions Answered on This Page:

  • Who is responsible if a drunk person injures someone after leaving a bar?
  • What kind of compensation is available if I was injured by a drunk driver?
  • Can I sue the bar if a drunk person hurt me?

Why are bars liable in some drunk driving accidents?

Some people find the idea of dram shop lawsuits to be strange. After all, if you are injured by a drunk driver, why would the bar have liability? The answer to this question lies in legal history. It has long been recognized that for a right to have meaning, there must be some remedy to protect that right. Similarly, for illegal behavior to truly be illegal, there must be criminal and civil sanctions.

Our justice system functions on the idea that wrong-doing exposes those who engage in it to civil, criminal, or sometimes both forms of sanctions. The service of alcohol to a drunk person has been illegal in Texas for decades.

However, until the passage of the Texas Dram Shop Act, the stiffest penalties a bar could face were either fines or the revocation of their liquor license by the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC). For those who had been injured by people who were illegally served, the real victims whom the prohibition against serving alcohol to people who were already drunk was meant to protect, there was no civil tool to recover compensation. Very simply, bars could break the rules and their victims had no legal means to hold those bars accountable.

That changed with the passage of the Texas Dram Shop Act. That act provided a legal remedy for the victims of bars who chose to break the law and serve obviously intoxicated patrons. With the passage of the act, bars could be held liable for the damage their unlawful behavior caused. Contrary to popular belief, this law does not in any way lessen the liability of drunk drivers. They can still be sued civilly. The Texas Dram Shop Act merely addressed a legal loophole where bars could profit off of criminal behavior with no way to be held accountable.

While resolving a paradox of the law, that those who illegally sold alcohol were the only criminals allowed to legally profit off of breaking the law, of even more importance was that the Texas Dram Shop Act allowed innocent victims of bars and drunk drivers another means to recover financial compensation after their lives have been turned upside-down through the negligence of others.

That means that when someone is injured by a drunk driver in Texas, if the drunk driver was served by a bar or restaurant while obviously intoxicated, those injured in the accident have a claim against the drunk driver and the bar.

Common scenarios our firm has handled:

The most common example of a drunk driver injuring someone else looks something like:

  • Jennifer has had too much to drink. Instead of cutting Jennifer off, the bar continues to server her until she staggers out of the bar, gets in her car to drive home from the bar, rounds a corner too quickly, slams into the back of Tory's SmartCar injuring Tory and her son.
  • Sandeep leaves a restaurant where he and his co-workers attended happy hour. He was over-served and is visibly intoxicated. As he drives his car home, he fails to notice Evelyn crossing the street, hits her, injuring her badly.
  • Bill is out at a party when the keg runs dry. Not wanting the good times to end, he hops in the car and drives to a local liquor store. Bill staggers through the door and weaves his way across the store to buy a couple bottles of vodka. He almost trips when he gets to the counter and has trouble getting his debit card out of his wallet to pay. The clerk still sells Bill the alcohol anyway. When he gets out the door, Bill cracks one of the bottles in the parking lot and takes a big swig before getting back in the car. On the way back to the party he fails to notice that the lights had turned red and t-bones another car in an intersection. The driver of the other car suffers severe injuries that require numerous surgeries.

In all of these scenarios, the common thread is that someone sold alcohol to an obviously intoxicated person whose intoxication lead injuries. If those criteria are met, then the victims of the drunk driver not only have a claim against the drunk driver, but also against the liquor establishment who served that person.

Damages Available from a Dram Shop Claim

Depending on the kinds of injuries sustained, there are many kinds of losses a claimant can recover. Additionally, if this claim is made by a statutory beneficiary on behalf of a deceased loved one, there are additional damages available.

Damages that may be available to any dram shop case:

  • Medical bills
  • Past/Future medical expenses
  • Lost wages/Loss of earning capacity
  • Physical and emotional pain
  • Disfigurement
  • Mental anguish

If you are filing a wrongful death claim, you might also be able to recover additional damages designed to restore to you the expenses or money you've lost as a result of your lost loved one's death, and to acknowledge the services no longer available to you that your loved one once provided. These can be complex, but we're happy to answer any questions you have regarding damages and what you'll need to do to prove your losses in court.

How Grossman Law Offices can Help

At Grossman Law Offices, we have over 25 years of experience successfully handling dram shop claims. Not only that, we've won hundreds of alcohol-related cases. We know this area of the law better than almost anyone. In that time we have helped hundreds of Texans receive compensation for injuries arising from a bar's unlawful alcohol service.

If you have questions regarding your claim, you can reach us at (855) 326-0000 at any time. We have experienced attorneys ready to speak with you 24/7. We'll be happy to assist you in any way that we can. Call us today.


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