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Texas Dram Shop Law: It Used to Be Great

The personal injury and property damage caused by drunk drivers can be expensive. Fortunately, a drunk driver and his or her insurance company are not the only source of financial recovery after an accident. Under certain circumstances, Texas law also allows for recovery from the person or establishment that provided the alcohol to the drunk driver who caused the motor vehicle accident.

Texas’ Dram Shop Act seeks to hold anyone who sells or provides alcohol to a clearly intoxicated person liable for the damages and injuries that person then goes out and causes. The idea behind the law is to prevent bars and restaurants from recklessly serving alcohol to obviously drunk people and then denying responsibility when those same people seriously injure or kill others in car accidents.

The Dram Shop Act specifically states that anyone “[p]roviding, selling, or serving an alcoholic beverage” to an “obviously intoxicated” person can be held liable for the injuries and damages proximately caused by that alcohol. However, the person must be so obviously intoxicated that he or she “presented a clear danger to himself [or herself] and others.” The person’s physical appearance, speech, and other behavior are all factors to be considered.

Tragically, in May 2007, the Texas Supreme Court dealt a near-fatal blow to recovery under the Dram Shop Act. The court held that the person, bar, restaurant or other alcohol providers can only be held responsible for its percentage of fault in the accident instead of the full amount with the drunk driver. Worse yet, the alcohol provider can only be held responsible if its percentage of fault was at least 50 percent.

In other words, if a jury finds the alcohol provider was less than 50 percent responsible for the injuries and/or damages, the provider does not pay a dime. This sets an incredibly high burden for injured plaintiffs and allows bars and restaurants to keep running up the tab on clearly drunk people with reckless abandon.

With the Texas Supreme Court insulating bars, restaurants, hotels and other providers of alcohol from liability, a skilled attorney is necessary to overcome the high hurdle and secure a judgment to compensate an injured or deceased party. If you or a loved one has been injured in a drunk driving accident, contact an experienced lawyer to discuss your situation and your options.

If you have been injured due to the negligence of another, contact the Herrman and Herrman law firm to speak with an experienced lawyer. Call 361-792-3669 to schedule a free consultation today!