Dram Shop Liability

Last updated on: July 26, 2020


Bars and restaurants selling alcohol have a legal obligation to do so responsibly. Before receiving their liquor license, they each agree to monitor their customers’ consumption and prevent patrons from being over-served.  Unfortunately, some establishments choose to put their profits above the safety of our communities and instead negligently serve customers who are obviously intoxicated and who later injure others as a result.  Fortunately, in most states, establishments who fail to abide by the law may be held liable for the personal injuries those who are over-served cause.

If you or a loved one has been injured by someone who was intoxicated, it is possible an establishment is partly liable.  At Zinda Law Group, our experienced dram shop liability attorneys may help ensure all responsible parties are held accountable for their actions.  Call us at (800) 863-5312 for a free consultation. You don’t owe us anything unless we win your case.


It is foreseeable that an intoxicated individual may cause harm to others.  For this reason, states enact dram shop laws to prevent establishments from over-serving by making them liable if they fail to abide by the law.  The most common situations when these laws apply are:


Dram shop laws differ from state to state.  Determining the liability of an establishment depends on the specific statutory language of that state.  The elements required for Texas, Colorado, and New Mexico are as follows:


  • At the time of service, it was apparent to the provider that the individual being served was obviously intoxicated; and
  • The intoxication of the recipient was a proximate cause of the damages


  • The establishment willfully and knowingly sells or serves alcoholic beverages to a person who is under the age of 21 or visibly intoxicated.

New Mexico

  • A vendor sold or served alcohol to an intoxicated person; and
  • The person’s intoxication was “reasonably apparent” to the vendor, or
  • The vendor knew that the person buying or receiving the alcohol was

By comparison, the test for proving dram shop liability in Texas and Colorado is significantly more difficult than in New Mexico.  In Texas and Colorado, in order for an establishment to be held liable for injuries caused by an over-served patron, it must be shown the patron was obviously or visibly intoxicated at the time of service.  By contrast, the threshold is lower in New Mexico, where it must only be shown that it was reasonably apparent the patron was intoxicated.

Determining whether a patron was obviously, visibly, or apparently intoxicated at the time of service often requires witness testimony. Key indicators courts look for when determining whether these factors existed include:

  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Slurred speech
  • Stench of alcohol
  • Unsteady posture
  • Amount of alcohol served

Evidence of a patron’s intoxication disappears quickly after an injury.  Without the help of an experienced team of attorneys, crucial witnesses may disappear, or those witnesses may simply forget if not found in time.


Typically, if an injured person tries to attain a settlement without the help of an attorney, those who are responsible will avoid providing answers and try to create false legal exceptions to avoid liability.  It is also common for these parties to offer less than reasonable amounts to simply make things go away. Commercial establishments serving alcohol rarely, if ever, admit to being liable for the injuries their over-served patrons cause.  In many cases, they refuse to cooperate and make it difficult to track down necessary witnesses for your case. Additionally, it is often not apparent whether a bar or restaurant is even involved.  This frequently requires a thorough investigation to determine.

Rather than attempt to take on a case involving an intoxicated defendant on your own, it is highly advisable to hire an experienced personal injury attorney to fight on your behalf.  An attorney may conduct an in-depth investigation to discover all potential parties who bear responsibility.  Furthermore, in many cases, an experienced attorney may significantly increase your chances of receiving greater compensation.

Learn More: Do I Need a Lawyer for a Car Accident That Wasn’t My Fault?


1. Document the Scene of the Accident

Take note of any details in order to preserve crucial evidence useful in proving the individual was intoxicated and anything indicating he or she was previously at an establishment serving alcohol.  Also, be sure to take notes documenting the full extent of your injuries.  If you require any medical attention at a hospital as a result of the accident, you may be able to seek the cost of y our treatment from the at-fault party. This is highly important, as medical costs can be astronomical, and sometimes future medical costs and treatments may be necessary for your recovery.

2. Contact an Attorney

A dram shop liability lawyer who has handled similar cases may help explain your rights and legal deadlines and may communicate on your behalf with all applicable parties and the court.  Further, your attorney may conduct in-depth investigations to preserve and gather evidence necessary in seeking maximum compensation from the other parties.


It is highly important after an accident to focus on rest, recovery, and regaining your life back.  Having an attorney to take care of the legal work on your behalf may allow you to focus on your recovery while they seek compensation for you.

Some cases may result in settlements with insurance companies and the other parties, who, seeing the evidence your attorney captures, may want to avoid a loss at trial or extended legal costs.

In other cases, your attorney may be able to seek maximum compensation by taking your case to trial and showing your damages to a jury. Whether they go to trial or not, attorneys work in your best interests to seek maximum compensation.

Learn More: Why Hiring a Lawyer Will Help Your Case


An experienced attorney knows what evidence to use in order to seek various damages that may increase your potential compensation.  These include tangible losses such as property damage, medical bills associated with the treatment of your injuries, future lost wages, disability, as well as “intangible” damages such as pain and suffering.

Pain and suffering can include the actual pain experienced during medical treatments and surgeries incurred as a result of the accident, as well as emotional trauma, anxiety, depression, and fear caused by the accident.  Some accident victims find it more difficult to drive at ease after a roadway incident, and this difficulty and anxiety may be quantified into monetary damages by your attorney.

An attorney with experience handling similar cases may know which parties to sue, including not just the person who caused your injuries, but also the establishment responsible for over-serving that person, expanding your potential sources of compensation.  Further, an attorney may conduct an in-depth investigation to acquire evidence that can help prove that the individual and the establishment are at fault.  This evidence may also prove your damages to the court and insurance companies. 


For personal injury cases in Texas, a victim may seek various damages from the at-fault party. These include tangible losses such as:

  • Medical bills, costs, and treatments;
  • Lost wages; and
  • Property damage

An experienced attorney may also seek intangible losses for you, which are called pain and suffering damages. These include any physical pain incurred during the crash, medical treatments and surgeries, as well as emotional and psychological damages such as anxiety, fear, and depression caused by the accident.

Your attorney may not only seek losses you have incurred leading up to the time of the claim but can also seek future damages such as necessary future medical costs and enduring emotional trauma.


Texas has a statute of limitations, a legal time limit, for bringing injury cases.  If you or a loved one has been personally injured by a drunk driver, you will generally have two years from the time of the accident to bring an injury claim against the company and their driver.  Your attorney may advise you about the time limit and work on filing your claim within the legal time limit.

The relatively short legal time limit in Texas makes it imperative to seek an experienced attorney as quickly as possible after the accident.


Commercial establishments serving alcohol agree to abide by strict laws, which are in place to protect our community from others who are intoxicated.  However, some bars and restaurants choose to put their profits above our community’s safety by over-serving patrons who clearly should have been cut off.

If you have been injured by a drunk driver or anyone under the influence of alcohol, you may be entitled to seek compensation.  Zinda Law Group’s dram shop liability lawyers may help advise you of your rights and fight to recover maximum compensation for your injuries.

Call Zinda Law Group today for a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney at (800) 863-5312.

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