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Can a Bar Be Responsible for a DUI Accident?

Posted in liability, Safety on November 25, 2019

Drunk driving is a rampant problem in Texas and throughout the U.S. In 2018, driving under the influence (DUI) in Texas caused fatal accidents that killed 940 people. Drunk driving accounted for 26% of the total number of motor vehicle crash deaths in Texas in 2018. Most people know they can hold the drunk driver responsible for a drunk driving accident, but may not know the bar or establishment that furnished the DUI driver with alcohol could also share liability depending on the situation. If you were injured by an intoxicated individual get help from a Dallas dram shop liability attorney.

Dram Shop Liability Laws

Like most states, Texas has a dram shop law in place that holds alcohol providers, such as bars and restaurants, responsible for drunk driving accidents in certain situations. The law states that selling, serving or providing alcoholic beverages could be grounds for a cause of action after an accident if certain circumstances exist. First, it must have been clear at the time of the dram shop offering the alcohol that the person was obviously intoxicated to an extent that he or she posed a danger to him/herself or others. Second, the person’s intoxication from the alcohol furnished must have been the proximate cause of the accident in question.

An adult 21 or older could also be liable for the actions of an intoxicated person if the drunk person was a minor under the age of 18, and if the furnishing adult was not the minor’s spouse, parent or guardian. The adult must have knowingly served, or allowed someone else to serve, the underage individual alcohol that contributed to the individual’s intoxication. Texas’ dram shop law can apply to any provider that served an obviously intoxicated person alcohol before he or she drove a vehicle and got into a DUI accident.

Can a Distributor of Alcohol Be Accountable for Accidents Involving Intoxication?

Yes, a distributor of alcohol can be legally accountable for car accidents and other incidents involving someone’s intoxication. A Dallas DUI accident could come down to the shared liability of both the drunk driver and the dram shop that provided the driver with alcohol if the shop knew or reasonably should have known the individual was already intoxicated, yet served the person alcohol anyway, and if this was the proximate cause of the drunk driving accident. If another bar or restaurant would not have served the person alcohol in the same circumstances, the dram shop could be liable for a resultant drunk driving accident.

Under Texas’ dram shop laws, DUI accidents are not the only incidents for which an alcohol provider may be liable if it sells alcohol to an obviously intoxicated person. The bar or distributor could also be liable for alcohol-related incidents such as brawls, assaults, violence and fall accidents. For example, if a distributor gives alcohol to Person A despite Person A’s obvious drunkenness, and Person A starts a fight with Person B, the bar could be liable for Person B’s injuries and hospital bills.

Obvious intoxication refers to a level of drunkenness that a prudent and reasonable alcohol furnisher would notice. This could include common signs of intoxication such as slurred speech, bloodshot eyes, stumbling while walking or smelling of alcohol. If an individual did not exhibit signs of intoxication or had an unusually low tolerance, however, the bar or restaurant may not be liable for furnishing the individual with more alcohol, even if that person went on to cause a drunk driving accident.

What Other Establishments Can Be Held Responsible?

Any establishment that furnishes alcohol to an intoxicated person who causes a drunk driving accident could be legally responsible for damages. This can include a bar, restaurant, gas station, grocery store, social host or individual. Any provider that sells or serves alcoholic beverages using an alcohol license or permit could be responsible if the intoxicated person drives and causes a car accident. An establishment can be vicariously responsible for the actions of its employees, as well, including bartenders and waiters. Find out if you have a case against a dram shop in Texas by talking to an attorney.