Dallas Dram Shop Lawyers
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Drunk driving often results in accidents, and innocent victims are often injured by these intoxicated drivers. The intoxicated driver who caused the accident may be liable for damages. However, the bar or club which served them alcohol may also be liable for your injuries. Dram shop laws in Texas provide that a vendor or social hosts who serve a visibly intoxicated person or a minor may be liable for any injuries caused by the intoxicated person.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a drunk driving accident, call the Dallas dram shop lawyers from Zinda Law Group at (512) 246-2224 for a free consultation. If we cannot reach a favorable result in your case, you will not owe us anything.
What are Dram Shop Laws?
Dram shop laws derive their name from the unit of measurement once used when serving alcohol, the dram. Dram shop laws apply to vendors, such as bars, as well as social hosts, which include private individuals hosting a party at home or on their property. Numerous states, including Texas, have enacted dram shop laws in an effort to combat drunk driving accidents. Dram shop law claims are generally the only method to seek compensation for damages from a vendor or social host in accidents involving alcohol in Texas, as the law excludes all other types of potential liability, such as gross negligence. The circumstances in which dram shop laws may be used to hold persons or establishments other than the intoxicated individual liable vary according to their classification as either a licensee, a social host, or a bar owner
A licensee is typically a vendor that serves or sells alcohol, such as a bar or liquor store. Licensees are generally held to a high standard of liability under dram shop laws, as they deal with alcohol routinely in their day-to-day business and are expected to take proper precautions in preventing a visibly intoxicated person or a minor from being served alcohol. If an intoxicated driver was overserved at a bar, the bar may be held liable.
Social Hosts Rules
The standard of liability is generally lower than that of licensees for social hosts, which are adults over the age of 21 serving alcohol in their homes or on their property in a private setting such as a dinner party. In most cases, a social host may only be held liable if they knowingly served alcohol to a minor or knowingly allowed a minor to consume alcohol on their property. However, parents or guardians of children may be exempt from this liability regarding their own children’s consumption of alcohol.
Bar Owner Liability for Drunk Driving Accidents
Bar owners may be liable as licensees for drunk driving accidents if they knowingly serve a minor or overserve alcohol to a visibly intoxicated person. The act of serving the intoxicated individual must also be the proximate cause of the accident. Just knowing that an individual is intoxicated does not necessarily make the bar owner liable. It must be proven that the accident was caused because the individual was overserved by a bartender, or the intoxicated person was a minor. It should also be noted that in Texas, a business licensed to sell alcohol can only be held liable for the proportion of blame a jury may assign to it, meaning if they are found to only be 50% at fault, they will only have to pay 50% of the compensation being claimed.
In Texas, most dram shop law claims are filed against licensee establishments that serve alcohol, and in order to establish liability, you must generally prove several elements:
- the accident was caused by the intoxication of the at-fault individual
- your injuries and damages were caused by the accident
- the intoxicated individual was visibly intoxicated, or a minor under the age of 21
- the establishment knowingly overserved the intoxicated individual or knowingly served a minor, or the licensee should have known the individual was intoxicated or a minor.
What Is the ‘Safe Harbor Defense’?
Businesses that sell or serve alcohol may be able to avoid liability for a drunk driving accident by using the Safe Harbor Defense. The Safe Harbor defense protects establishments from liability if they prove compliance with state guidelines regarding employee training and rule enforcement in order to prevent employees from serving a visibly intoxicated person or a minor. For the Safe Harbor defense to apply, the business must:
- Require employees attend a Texas Alcohol Beverage Commission (TABC) approved training program
- Show the employees in question did, in fact, attend the program
- Show the employer did not directly or indirectly encourage the employee to violate the Texas Dram Shop Act.
The business can support this defense by showing that it hs implemented written policies aimed at the prevention of overserving and serving of minors, and they actively enforce these policies. A judge may dismiss this defense, however, if it can be proven that the employer, either directly or indirectly, encouraged employees to violate the Texas Dram Shop Act.
Legal Alcohol Limits in Texas
In Texas, as in every other state, the legal BAC limit for operating a vehicle is .08%. If an individual’s BAC exceeds this limit, they can be charged with Driving While Intoxicated (DWI), under the Texas Penal Code. Minors who drive with any amount of alcohol in their system can be charged with Driving Under the Influence (DUI), under the Texas Traffic Code.
However, establishments that sell or serve alcohol are not required nor expected to test the BAC of the customers. Nonetheless, they are expected to determine when a person is intoxicated to the level that they should no longer be served any alcohol. There are many indicators that employees watch for, such as:
- Slurred Speech
- Drooping Eyelids
- Red Eyes
- Poor Balance
- Loss of Coordination
It is important to remember that that standard for determining liability is that the employees should have known. This means the employees should be trained to look out for these and other indicators and do so when serving customers.
Making A Dram Shop Claim
If you have been injured in an accident, and the accident was caused by an intoxicated individual, you should immediately seek to determine where the intoxicated individual obtained their alcohol, as you may be able to seek compensation from the establishment or social host who served them. Some steps in filing a dram shop claim are:
1. Consult an Attorney
You should consult a Dallas Dram Shop Law attorney as soon as possible after an accident. A dram shop lawyer may help you discover what options are available to you to seek compensation. An experienced attorney may be familiar with the applicable laws and may help you decide the best course of action to take in pursuing any compensation you may be entitled to.
Your attorney may investigate where the intoxicated person obtained their alcohol to determine what the liability, if any, of the establishment or social host may be. They may use witness statements, employee statements, camera footage, or an expert witness to determine if the employee should have known the intoxicated individual was intoxicated before serving them.
3. File A Dram Shop Claim
Once your attorney has gathered evidence, they may file a lawsuit against the establishment, or if the case involves an intoxicated minor, it may be filed against a social host as well. Once this suit is filed, your attorney may use discovery to conduct a more in-depth investigation to gather more evidencing proving the other party’s liability.
Once the suit is filed, your attorney may begin to negotiate a settlement. Your attorney may begin by presenting your demand. This initial demand is usually rejected, and the other party or insurer may present a counteroffer. Negotiations may go back and forth until an amount that can be agreed upon by both parties is reached. If a settlement is reached, the case will not need to go to trial.
If a settlement cannot be agreed upon, the case may go to trial. In a trial, the jury will decide the amount of compensation, as well as the proportion of liability the establishment or social host is responsible for. The establishment or host will only have to pay this percentage of damages sought.
You may be entitled to compensation for your damages under dram shop laws. Depending on the specifics of your case, you may be able to seek compensation for:
- Medical Costs: Compensation for medical costs may include hospital stays, diagnosis and treatment, and medications related to injuries you may have sustained as a result of the accident.
- Property Damage: You may be able to seek compensation for damaged property such as the repair costs or value of your vehicle if it was totaled (determined by the fair market value of the damaged vehicle).
- Lost Wages: If you were forced to miss work because of injuries you sustained as a result of the accident, you may be able to seek compensation for lost wages.
- Pain and Suffering: Compensation for pain and suffering may be awarded in some cases. The likelihood of being awarded damages for pain and suffering and their amount will vary from case to case, depending on the specific details of your case, such as the impact on quality of life you may have suffered as a result of your injuries.
- Punitive Damages: In some cases, if the actions of an establishment or social host are especially negligent or careless, the victim may be awarded punitive damages.
Legal Time Limits
The statute of limitations is a time frame within which you are allowed to file a suit. In Texas, you have two years from the date of the accident to file a suit. Any suit filed after the statute of limitations has expired may be dismissed.
GET HELP FROM THE DALLAS DRAM SHOP ATTORNEYS AT ZINDA LAW GROUP
It can often be difficult for an individual to know what evidence is necessary to prove the other party’s liability or their own injuries in order to seek compensation. Dram shop liability cases can often be especially confusing. However, the experienced attorneys at Zinda Law Group may investigate the accident as well as negotiate with the insurance company on your behalf.
At Zinda Law Group, our Dallas dram shop lawyers are here to assist you with your claim. We help our clients pursue the maximum compensation they may be entitled to as a victim of an accident.
Meetings with attorneys by appointment only.