Drunk driving is one of the biggest threats on our roads. Every 20 minutes, a person is killed or injured in a drunk driving crash in Texas. The decision of a drunk driver to get behind the wheel of an automobile is often the last in a long line of poor choices, one that has the potential to result in a serious car crash. While so much of the responsibility of a drunk driving crash falls on the shoulders of the driver, it might also be the case that the provider of the drinks bears some responsibility.
That is the premise behind what is known as “dram shop laws,” which allow someone who has been injured by an intoxicated person to hold the establishment that served that person partially liable for the injuries they have suffered. At Guajardo & Marks, our drunk driving injury attorneys are committed to helping clients who have been injured in these accidents to hold the responsible party accountable for the damages they have caused.
Dram Shop Laws in Texas
A dram shop is any establishment that serves alcohol to patrons. Along with the privilege of being able to sell alcohol in a bar or restaurant comes the responsibility of not over-serving or giving more to drinks to a person who is already intoxicated. In Texas, it must be proven that the establishment knew that the patron was “obviously intoxicated” when they continued to serve them alcoholic drinks.
Every state has some form of the dram shop law. In Texas, the law is what many consider to be more lenient on businesses. This is because of the “safe harbor” provision in Texas law that sets forth the reasons an establishment might be absolved from responsibility. For example, if a server has received training required by the state, then it might be ruled that a bar or restaurant should be in the clear for their part in an ensuing crash. However, while the safe harbor law is intended to protect businesses from lawsuits, it is often up to a jury to decide who is responsible for a drunk driving crash, and those juries have proven to be open-minded about assigning a portion of the blame to an establishment.
While the drinking establishment will typically not be held fully responsible for a drunk driving crash, it can share some of the blame. This is referred to as partial liability. For victims of drunk drivers, this is an important addition to our drunk driving laws, since a server who continues to serve a person who is visibly drunk is also a contributor to the actions that person takes when they cause another harm.
A drinking establishment’s responsibility
It is the obligation of a restaurant or bar to make sure that its customers are not obviously intoxicated when it continues to serve them drinks. It must also be sure that that the patrons it is serving are of legal drinking age. Servers must receive training through a TABC training course, an important stipulation of dram shop law requirements for a business. This component of the law is to ensure both the safety of the patron and the community in general. An intoxicated patron might make decisions that put others in harm’s way – such as choosing to drink and drive – and there is a certain obligation on the part of an establishment to make sure it doesn’t contribute to their actions.
How to tell if a person is intoxicated
Servers typically know how to identify when a person is becoming intoxicated. Signs include:
- Slurred speech
- Increasingly loud or obnoxious behavior as drinks are consumed
- Blurry or red eyes
- Increased confusion
- Deteriorated motor skills.
If you or a loved one has suffered because of the actions of a drunk driver, the Texas drunk driving attorneys will investigate the case to determine who bears responsibility for the crash. We fight for our clients to ensure that they don’t have to shoulder the costs of another person’s mistakes or a business’s negligence. Contact us today for a free consultation. We earn no fee unless we win.