The State of Texas has some of the strictest alcohol laws in the country. The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) tightly regulates who can sell wine, beer, and spirits, and the people they can sell them to. Texas takes a strong-arm, Lone Star State approach to alcohol consumption in an effort to combat some of the most dangerous daily behavior in our state: drunk driving. According to the Texas Department of Transportation, roughly 200,000 car crashes a year involve a person who was driving under the influence. That’s almost 500 drunk driving accidents per day.
The law that clearly defines the level of responsibility that bars, restaurants, and other commercial establishments that sell and serve alcohol must shoulder for the actions of intoxicated individuals is called the Texas Dram Shop Act. Under the Dram Shop Act, people who suffer injuries from drunk driving accidents may file civil lawsuits against the server, store clerk, or establishment that served alcohol to an intoxicated or underage person.
In Texas, the court will have to undergo a rigorous analysis of the percentage of liability that should be assigned to each party involved. If you or a loved one were seriously injured as a result of a drunk driving or DUI accident, hiring a Dram Shop attorney to advocate on your behalf will ensure that your voice is heard while you focus on your medical care and healing.
Under the Texas Dram Shop Act, it is against the law for bars and restaurants to serve alcohol to anyone who is obviously intoxicated to the extent that they present a clear danger to themselves and others. If a bartender or waiter serves someone who is obviously intoxicated, they have broken Texas’ dram shop law and the establishment assumes at least partial responsibility for any injuries that may occur as a result of the drinker's intoxication.
In Texas, it is completely legal to drink at a bar or a similar establishment that serves alcohol. However, once a customer reaches a certain point of intoxication, it is the bartender's duty to stop serving them and, in some cases, to ensure that they have a safe ride home.
They not only can—it’s their legal responsibility to do so.
While there’s no clearly-defined limit that a bartender or server has to follow regarding how many drinks they are allowed to serve, bartenders are trained to look for signs of intoxication and cut you off when they identify them. For example, if a customer is belligerent, has glassy eyes, and displays poor hand-eye coordination, these characteristics may signal the bartender to refuse further alcohol service.
A bartender cannot forcibly take your keys from you if you do not want to give them. However, bars are required to make an effort to dissuade you from driving home if they believe that you are intoxicated. These efforts usually take the form of calling a cab or an Uber, or ensuring that you have a designated driver or a friend to pick you up. Some establishments even go the extra mile by promoting a designated driver program or by partnering with rideshare companies like Uber or Lyft to have drivers on-call to take intoxicated guests home.
Any TABC-certified bartender can tell you that if you over-serve someone, you’re putting yourself on the line right along with the person you helped to inebriate. As an alcohol-serving establishment, businesses can be especially vulnerable to the legal risks of over-serving their patrons. Bartenders and establishments protect themselves against this vulnerability by paying for special training to spot inebriated behavior. As a result, bartenders and servers can be particularly effective in limiting the damage that an intoxicated person may potentially cause by cutting them off at the proper time. In many ways, bartenders are the first and last line of defense against drunk driving.
Under Texas law, a bartender is guilty of over-serving if they negligently “sell an alcoholic beverage to an habitual drunkard or an intoxicated or insane person.” In plain English, this means that if you are served by a bartender after exhibiting obvious signs of intoxication, then they and the establishment are partially responsible for the injuries that occurred as a result. The penalty carries up to a year in jail or a fine of up to $500, or both. However, these penalties only apply to criminal charges. The bar can also lose its liquor license, and the parties injured by the intoxicated driver have the right to bring a civil suit against the bartender for the harm they have caused.
The Texas Dram Shop Act allows anyone who was injured by the actions of an intoxicated person the right to sue establishments that sell and serve alcohol for damages, including the intoxicated person and their family. These are called first-party dram shop cases. While it may seem strange at first, the reasoning behind first-party dram shop cases is the same: establishments that sell and serve alcohol shoulder some of the responsibility for enabling an intoxicated individual to harm others. However, since Texas still believes that the drunk person shoulders the majority of responsibility, it is rare for first-party plaintiffs to recover full damages, if they recover any at all.
Auto accidents involving drunk driving are all too common on Texas roads, and all too often these auto collisions cause serious injuries and fatalities. Intoxicated individuals endanger everyone on the road when they choose to get behind the wheel of a motor vehicle. However, while drunk drivers are certainly liable for their reckless actions, the establishments that enabled their intoxication must also be held accountable.
If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident with a drunk driver, you are entitled to compensation for your medical treatment, vehicle repair, legal expenses, and pain and suffering caused by the DUI accident—both from the drunk driver and the bartender, server, or alcohol-selling establishment that failed to stop them from driving drunk.
Attorney Sgt. Pike’s mission in Dram Law cases is two-fold. First, his elite Car Accident Response Team (C.A.R.T.™) will get to the truth of your DUI accident circumstances by preserving and protecting the vital car crash evidence. With this evidence, Sgt. Pike will then map out the particulars of the drunk driver’s impairment and track down the establishment where they were served.
While Sgt. Pike and his C.A.R.T.™ team are investigating the accident, you will be able to focus on your medical care, clearly defining the extent and severity of your auto accident injuries. With the proper documentation of the damages that you suffered at the hands of the DUI driver’s recklessness and the alcohol-serving establishment’s irresponsibility, Attorney Sgt. Pike will ensure that you and your family receive justice for the harm that’s been done.
If you have been injured in a DUI accident, there’s no time to waste. Call Sgt. Pike today to see that justice gets done.