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Overview of the Texas Dram Shop Act

As this blog has discussed previously, Houston motorists who choose to get behind the wheel after having too much alcohol to drink engage in very risky and irresponsible behavior. In addition to criminal penalties, if these people cause an accident as a result of being intoxicated, they may also be liable to pay compensation to their victims.

However, the drunk drivers themselves are not the only people who can be held legally responsible for drunk driving accidents. Under the law of Texas, bars and restaurants that serve alcohol may also have to pay compensation following a serious accident involving an intoxicated driver.

Under the law, the owner of a bar, or the bar's employees, may not serve alcohol to someone who is "obviously intoxicated" such that one can easily tell that, if the person got behind the wheel of a car, he or she would pose a significant hazard to others on the road. In other words, while those who serve alcohol for business do not have to go looking for signs of drunkenness, they cannot ignore what they see; they must protect the community by not serving alcohol when doing so would clearly put others in danger.

Although some defenses may be available to them, when bars do not meet this legal responsibility and serve alcohol to someone who later causes a severe drunk driving accident, then the bar can be held legally and financially accountable for damages.

This is not always easy to do in practice, however. For example, there may be some question as to where a drunk driver got his or her alcohol or at what point the driver was showing obvious signs of drunkenness. Still, victims of drunk driving accidents should be aware of this additional avenue to getting compensation for their losses.

Source: Texas Statutes, "Alcoholic Beverage Code, Title 1, General Provisions, Chapter 2. Civil Liabilities For Serving Beverages," accessed April 27, 2018

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Law Offices of Willie D. Powells III and Associates, PLLC
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