Can You Sue a Bar for Overserving a Drunk Driver in Texas?

“Can you sue a bar when you’re hit by a drunk driver?” Yes, a bar can be sued for overserving a patron that later causes harm under Texas Dram Shop laws. This article delves into this contentious and complex legal issue as we unravel Texas Dram Shop laws and explore legal remedies beyond assigning blame to merely the drunk driver.

The Dram Shop act establishes that you may be able to sue a bar or establishment that overserved alcohol to someone who caused an accident or injury. To prevail in a Dram Shop case, you must prove that the establishment continued to serve alcohol when it was apparent that the individual was clearly impaired and should not have been served any more drinks. If you or someone you love has been involved in an accident involving a drunk driver, contact our experienced personal injury attorneys to discuss your legal options.

Exploring Texas Dram Shop Laws

Suing a bar for overserving a drunk driver falls under the Texas Dram Shop laws. Texas Dram Shop laws exist to hold establishments that serve alcohol accountable for injuries caused by their patrons. However, overserving laws in Texas require specific conditions to be met before a bar can be held liable.

Under Texas Law, selling or serving alcohol to an intoxicated person can lead to legal liability if that person later causes an accident. The law states that an establishment may be liable if they served alcohol “when it was apparent to the provider that the individual being sold, served, or provided with an alcoholic beverage was obviously intoxicated to the extent that he presented a clear danger to himself and others.” This means that the bar can be held responsible if they knew or should have known that serving a patron more alcohol would increase their risk of causing harm.

Even if the drunk driver’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) was above the legal limit at the time of the accident (a BAC of 0.08% in Texas), this alone does not prove the bar’s liability. The establishment must have engaged in negligent behavior by continuing to serve a visibly drunk patron, leading them to cause harm.

It is important to keep in mind that proving liability under these circumstances can be difficult and requires specific evidence. Victims must provide proof that:

  • The establishment continued serving alcohol when it was apparent that their customer was dangerously intoxicated.
  • The consumption of alcohol led directly to injuries or damages.
  • The establishment’s negligence caused the injuries or damages.

Bars are expected by law to provide a safe environment for their patrons. If they fail to do so, they can be held liable for harm caused as a result of their negligence.

Drunk Driving - Texas Dram Shop laws

Gathering Evidence in Drunk Driving Dram Shop Cases

When it comes to pursuing a lawsuit against a bar for overserving a drunk driver in Texas, gathering sufficient evidence is key. Victims must be able to prove that the establishment continued serving alcohol when it was apparent that the patron was dangerously intoxicated. Some crucial pieces of evidence in Dram Shop cases include:

  • Eye Witnesses:  Witnesses who saw the individual being served and observed their level of intoxication can be incredibly useful in proving liability.
  • Security Footage:  Camera footage may show how many drinks were consumed and any signs of visible intoxication.
  • Receipts:  Sales receipts from the establishment can show how many drinks were served over what period of time. Further, they can provide evidence related to the time period that elapsed from the last drink to the time of the accident.
  • Medical Records:  It is also important to obtain medical records from treatment received following the accident. This documentation will be able to help establish the extent and severity of any injuries sustained.
  • Police Reports:  Police crash reports are essential as they contain vital information such as BAC test results from the time of arrest and whether other factors such as improper lane changes, speeding, distractions, or fatigue contributed to the accident.

Still, proving the direct relationship between an establishment’s negligence and damages incurred may not always be straightforward. For example, if a drunk driver crashes hours after leaving an establishment that may have overserved them earlier in the evening, but then consumed more alcohol elsewhere or at home before getting behind the wheel. Under this scenario, it may require additional investigations to pinpoint where they consumed alcohol beyond just eyewitness accounts or police reports.

Identifying Overserving Instances at Bars

Overserving refers to when a bartender or establishment serves alcohol to a customer who is already visibly intoxicated. This is not only irresponsible but also illegal in Texas. If you have been injured by a drunk driver, identifying overserving instances at bars may be crucial in proving the establishment’s negligence.

Anecdotal evidence can be powerful when it comes to identifying overserving instances at bars. For example, if witnesses observed the bartender continue to serve an obviously intoxicated individual, this could help prove that the bar ignored their obligation not to overserve patrons. Additionally, receipts or credit card statements that show multiple drinks being purchased for one person in a short amount of time can suggest that the person was overserved.

It’s important to keep in mind that overserving may not always be obvious. Signs of intoxication can vary from person to person and may not always be apparent to those around them. Therefore, it may be necessary to consult with an expert witness, such as a toxicologist or physician, who can testify about the effects of alcohol consumption and how much would be considered overserving under certain circumstances.

Furthermore, overserving can occur even if an individual does not appear visibly intoxicated. In Texas, a bar or establishment can be held liable for serving alcohol to someone who they knew or should have known had consumed too much without displaying obvious signs of intoxication. For example, if a patron has slurred speech or difficulty standing up after three drinks, then it might be evident that he is intoxicated, and any further serving could result in an accident.

Proving Negligence of the Establishment for Overserving

If you are injured in a drunk driving accident and believe that a bar or establishment was negligent and overserved their customer, Texas law allows you to bring a civil lawsuit against them. However, proving negligence can be challenging in such cases.

To prove negligence of an establishment in overserving situations, there are several elements required for you to demonstrate:

  1. Duty of care:  The establishment had a duty of care towards its patrons and should not have overserved anyone to cause harm.
  2. Breach of duty:  The establishment breached this duty by continuing to serve an obviously intoxicated individual.
  3. Causation:  The overserving by the establishment resulted in injury or death caused to someone else due to the patron who was being overserved.
  4. Damages:  There were damages (e.g., medical expenses, lost wages, property damage) incurred as a result of the overserving incident leading to the injury or injuries.

Evidence like bar surveillance footage may help prove overserving, but more steps may need to be taken to prove that it was the fault of that specific bar. Consulting medical and toxicological experts can provide more accurate social data surrounding alcohol intake levels and its effects on driving ability. Accident reconstruction experts and bar staff observation could also provide valuable information when determining whether a bar was responsible for causing harm.

It is essential to consider contributing factors such as the driver’s own recklessness or past DUI convictions when evaluating alcohol-involved accidents. While a bar may be criminally liable for overserving and causing harm, there might be additional parties that contributed to their negligence. Injured parties’ options may be limited if they themselves had any culpability regarding the accident.

Auto Accident - Texas Dram Shop laws for drunk driving wrecks - Can you sue a bar when you're hit by a drunk driver?

Understanding Compensation for Alcohol-Related Incidents

When it comes to alcohol-related incidents, the victim can be left with severe injuries or even lose their life. If you or a loved one has been affected by a drunk driver in Texas, you may be eligible for compensation under Texas Dram Shop laws. Understanding the types of compensation available and who is eligible can help you determine whether or not suing a bar for overserving a drunk driver is the right decision.

Compensation in alcohol-related incidents can vary depending on several factors. One factor is whether or not the victim was partially at fault for their injuries. Texas follows modified comparative negligence laws, meaning that if the victim is found to be 51% or more at fault for their injuries, they cannot receive any compensation.

Consider a situation where a pedestrian is crossing the street while drunk and gets hit by an overserving driver. The pedestrian may still have a case against the bar that sold alcohol to the driver but could be found partially at fault for being intoxicated while crossing the street.

Additionally, there may be debates on how much compensation is appropriate for alcohol-related incidents. Insurance adjusters may use tactics to try to settle quickly and cheaply, leaving victims feeling like they did not receive proper compensation. It’s important to seek legal representation when pursuing a case against an overserving establishment to ensure your rights are protected and fair compensation is sought.

Types of Damages in Dram Shop Cases in Texas

If you are eligible for compensation in an alcohol-related incident, there are different types of damages you may be able to pursue.

Economic damages are awarded based on quantifiable losses such as medical bills, lost wages, and property damage. Non-economic damages compensate for non-monetary losses such as pain and suffering, disfigurement, and emotional trauma. Punitive damages may also be awarded if the establishment exhibited gross negligence or malice in overserving a patron who later caused an accident.

Who Can File a Dram Shop Lawsuit in Texas?

Under Texas law, those who have suffered personal injury or death due to an overserving establishment’s actions can seek compensation. This includes not only the victim, but also any surviving family members who have suffered a wrongful death loss due to the incident.

In fact, any individual hurt in a collision caused by a drunk driver may be able to bring a civil claim against the bar or restaurant that overserved alcohol to the driver under Texas Dram Shop laws. Potential claimants can include drivers, passengers (including passengers of the drunk driver), pedestrians, bicyclists, or others that suffered injuries due to the crash.

What is the Safe Harbor Defense in Texas Dram Shop Law?

Many bar and restaurant owners may try to absolve themselves of liability by claiming the Safe Harbor Defense under Tex. Alc. Bev. Code §106.14. The Safe Harbor Law in Texas Dram Shop laws requires the establishment owner to prove:

  • They required employees attend an approved Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) seller training course;
  • The employee overserving the drunk driver received TABC certification; and
  • The bar did not instruct employees to violate the law, either directly or indirectly.

Nevertheless, a knowledgeable drunk driving accident lawyer can often successfully challenge this defense, and Texas courts and juries generally tend to find in favor of the victims.

Analyzing the Merits of Suing a Bar in Texas

If you are considering suing a Texas bar for overserving a drunk driver, it’s important to analyze the merits of your case. While it may seem like a clear-cut situation, there are several factors that could impact the success of your lawsuit. Here are some factors to consider when you are contemplating suing a bar under Texas Dram Shop laws:

  • Negligence:  You need to have evidence that the bar was negligent in serving alcohol to the driver. This means proving that they continued to serve them despite being visibly intoxicated or known to be a danger on the road. Gathering this evidence can be difficult, but it’s essential to have a strong case.
  • Liability:  Consider whether the drunk driver is also at fault for the accident. Texas’s modified comparative negligence rule states if the plaintiff is more than 50% responsible for their own injuries, they cannot recover damages.
  • Insurance / Source of Recovery:  Texas does not require bars to carry Dram Shop liability insurance. If the bar is insured, you may have an easier time recovering damages. Think of it like the difference between a car accident with an uninsured driver versus one with an insured driver. If the at-fault driver is uninsured, it can be much harder to recover compensation for your injuries.
  • Damages:  Consider the potential damages that you could recover in a lawsuit. Texas law allows for both economic and non-economic damages, which means that you could be compensated for medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and more.

Overall, suing a bar for overserving a drunk driver in Texas can be a complex process with many variables to consider. However, with the right evidence and legal team on your side, it is possible to hold establishments accountable for their actions. If you or a loved one has been injured in an alcohol-related accident, it’s important to seek experienced legal counsel to discuss your options.

Call Thompson Law if You Need Help Filing a Dram Shop Claim

Our Texas personal injury lawyers at Thompson Law are dedicated to helping victims of drunk driving accidents with Dram Shop claims when permitted under Texas Dram Shop laws. We obtained 40 of the top 100 personal injury settlements in Texas in 2022 ( for victims of injury accidents – such as victims of drunk driving accidents – and the number 1 Dram Shop settlement in Texas in 2022.

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Our accident lawyers are standing by, ready to help you with a FREE CASE REVIEW. We work on a contingency fee basis, meaning charge NO FEE unless we are able to obtain a settlement on your behalf. If we obtain a settlement with the insurance company, our fee comes out of a portion of your settlement. If we cannot recover any compensation, you will not owe us a penny for our work.

Call our personal injury lawyers in Texas today to learn if we can help you with a claim against a bar under Texas Dram Shop laws.


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