Dram Shop Lawyer
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After an accident occurs as a result of someone else’s negligence, the injured person may be distressed and confused about how to move forward. It is often difficult to know who is at fault and how to seek compensation for your potentially costly injuries.
What are Dram Shop Laws?
A dram shop is any establishment that is licensed to sell alcohol that is consumed on the premise. Examples of dram shops are bars and taverns. Dram shop liability refers to the laws that govern dram shops. Under dram shop laws, these drinking establishments have a responsibility to ensure that their patrons are not a danger to themselves or others. For example, if a bar continues to serve someone who is already intoxicated and the patron harms another person, not only could the drunk individual be held responsible, but the bar could be held responsible as well.
The general rule governing establishments that have a license to serve alcohol is governed by common sense. A bar, tavern, club, or any other dram shop may be held liable if they overserved someone so much that they posed a danger to themselves or others. Additionally, the injured person must prove that the intoxication was the foreseeable cause of the injury and that the intoxicated person was already obviously intoxicated to a dangerous degree.
A dram shop establishment may also be held liable if the alcohol was sold or given to a minor, and the minor injured another person. In that situation, the minor does not even have to be visibly intoxicated; the injury just must be a foreseeable cause of the injury.
Social Hosts Rules
In addition to dram shops, hosts of private parties who are over the age of 21 can be held liable if they serve someone who is under the age of 18. The server may not be the parent or guardian of the minor and must knowingly serve the minor or allowed the minor to consume alcohol on their property. In these incidents an injured person may have the ability to seek compensation not only from the minor who was drinking, but also from the adult who provided the alcohol.
If a minor acquires alcohol at an adult’s home or property, even if the property owners were not there, they may still be liable for any damages that occurred as a result of the minor’s drinking. In these situations, the plaintiff must prove that the property owner knew or should have known that minors would be drinking alcohol on the premises.
Bar Owner Liability for Drunk Driving Accidents
If an intoxicated person is involved in a drunk driving accident, the injured victim may be able to collect damages not only from the drunk driver, but also from the owner of the bar where the drunk driver left from as well.
In order to prove the dram shop is responsible for any injuries, the victim must prove that the establishment served a person who was visibly intoxicated and that the bar allowed the intoxicated person to leave when it would have foreseeably led to an injury. For example, if the dram shop establishment allows the intoxicated person to drive and they get in a wreck, the dram shop may be liable.
If the plaintiff can show that the bar served someone under the age of eighteen, they do not need to prove that the person was visibly intoxicated.
In Texas, a dram shop will only be held liable for a percentage of liability assigned to it determined by a jury. For example, if a jury determines that a dram shop was 75 percent responsible for the injury, the establishment would pay for 75 percent of the damages being sought by the injured party and the intoxicated person would pay for the other 25 percent of damages they caused.
What is the 'Safe Harbor Defense'?
A dram shop may be protected from liability if they can prove they followed the guidelines set forth by the state in regards for safely serving patrons alcohol. The requirements are as follows:
- The employees have attended a Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission-approved seller training program
- The owner did not directly or indirectly encourage their employees to violate the law.
A dram shop establishment may prove these facts by providing clear documentation of training and written policies that detail overserving patrons. An experienced dram shop attorney can help prove that the establishment did not follow these guidelines and therefore should compensate the injured party.
Legal Alcohol Limits in Austin
In Texas the legal limit for a 21-year-old operating a motor vehicle is .08%. For the average person, approximately 2-3 drinks per hour will put them over the legal limit. For a commercial driver, the legal limit in Texas is .04%. For those under the age of 21, any measurement of alcohol is considered to be over the legal limit.
For a bar or tavern to be considered liable for any injuries caused by an intoxicated person, that person must be considered to be obviously or visibly intoxicated and a clear danger to others. Even if a person is visibly intoxicated and are slurring their words the bar may not be considered liable if they continue to serve them. Other examples of visible intoxication would be lack of inhibitions, aggressiveness, and poor balance.
Common Dram Shop Accidents and Injuries
- Broken bones
- Mental or psychological injuries
- Spinal cord and back injuries
- Severe burns
- Internal injuries
- Pain and suffering
- Wrongful Deaths
An injured party may be able to receive compensation for these injuries if they file a dram shop claim with an experienced dram shop lawyer.
Making a Dram Shop Claim
If you or a loved one has been injured by an intoxicated person, there are some steps to follow:
- Seek medical attention
- Document any injuries and damages caused by the intoxicated person. Be sure to get the name and number of any witnesses so they can be contacted later.
- Contact a Dram Shop Attorney for help in what to do next
Dram Shop Law can be complicated and may differ by state, so it is important to contact an experienced attorney that knows the laws of your state. An experienced attorney will know the best way to ensure that you are potentially compensated not only for your injuries but any pain, suffering, and mental anguish you experience because of the accident.
There are 3 main kinds of damages that you may be able to recover from a dram shop claim. There is no limit to the amount of damages that you may get.
Economic damages are losses that can be calculated in terms of dollars and cents with reasonable precision and include:
- Medical expenses - This may include emergency room visits, ambulance or helicopter transportation, prescription drug costs, surgery expenses, rehabilitation or therapy expenses, and any other medical expenses incurred as a result of the accident.
- Future medical expenses - The assessment will also consider future medical expenses if the injuries you suffered will require ongoing medical treatment, such as additional doctor visits, therapy sessions, surgeries, prescription medication, or other care.
- Property Damage - If there are any damages to property a dram shop claim may cover the cost to replace or repair the damaged property.
- Lost Wages - If you missed work due to your injuries, your lost wages may be recoverable. Depending on the nature and severity of your injuries, you may be prevented from fully returning to work or may be forced to take additional time off to complete your treatment. In this case, you may be able to recover lost future earnings, as well.
Non-Economic (Intangible) Damages
Non-economic damages are usually given to compensate for any psychological harm. You may be able to receive compensation for pain and suffering. You may also be able to recover for mental anguish, loss of sexual function, or another physical disfigurement. Calculating and predicting the value that will be given to your intangible damages is difficult. When serious injuries occur, it is not uncommon for six- or even seven-figure awards to be given.
Punitive (Exemplary) Damages
Punitive damages are designed to punish the defendant in cases of serious wrongdoing. For example, if the driver was intoxicated at the time of accident, punitive damages may be awarded.
Third parties may also be compensated. The spouse of a seriously injured plaintiff may be able to recover damages. For example, if the plaintiff has lost the ability to provide emotional support to the spouse, the spouse may recover. If the accident results in a death, the deceased’s immediate family members may be able to file a wrongful death suit.
Legal Time Limits
It is important to act quickly whenever you are injured. Not only is there a limited time to legally receive compensation after an injury, but your case may become weaker because of witnesses fading memory and detreating evidence.
In Texas, dram shop claims must be filed within 2 years of the date of the injury, with some exceptions. If you are concerned this date is approaching quickly, it might be time to contact an experienced attorney to make sure you receive the compensation you deserve. If 2 years have already passed, you should talk to an attorney to see if you fall into one of the exceptions.
Our Dram Shop Lawyers Can Help
At Zinda Law Group, our experienced Dram Shop Lawyers have helped thousands of people. We have the knowledge, experience, and resources to help you seek the full compensation you deserve.
Our firm believes that injured individuals should have access to high-quality legal representation, which is why we operate on a contingency fee basis. That means you will owe nothing unless we achieve a favorable settlement for your dram shop claim.
Meeting with attorneys are available by appointment only.