Dram Shop Laws: Alcohol-Related Crash Raises Liability Questions

On Behalf of | Mar 27, 2015 | Personal Injury

One woman is dead and two other people are in the hospital following a wrong-way collision on the South Side, and attorneys may soon be asking when and how the responsible driver became intoxicated.

Authorities state that the crash occurred near the intersection of South Presa Street and East Southcross Boulevard, when a southbound Dodge Ram pickup crossed the center line and smashed into a northbound Buick LeSabre. All three passengers inside the LeSabre – a 38-year-old woman, 1-year-old child, and a third unidentified victim – were rushed to local hospitals. The 38-year-old woman succumbed to her injuries and died on the operating table.

The pickup driver fled the scene on foot, but a witness brought him back to the accident scene. Authorities determined the man to be intoxicated, and charged him with DWI and failure to stop and render aid.

Dram Shop Law

Most states recognize this form of third party liability. Texas is a relative newcomer to this group, adding Section 2 to the Alcoholic Beverage Code in 1987. The dram shop law – the term comes from an outdated term describing a bar or saloon – establishes civil liability, under some circumstances, when an intoxicated patron causes an injury. To recover under the law, a plaintiff must prove:

  • Illegal Sale: The provider served an “obviously intoxicated” person who “presented a clear danger to himself and others.”
  • Proximate Cause: Other factors may have been involved, but alcohol must be the primary cause of the collision or injury.

In addition to civil liability, the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission can suspend or revoke the provider’s liquor license, if applicable. “Provider” is broadly defined to include both commercial and non-commercial situations.

The second prong – proximate cause – is typically fairly easy to establish in a motor vehicle crash, through a DWI arrest and/or a notation on the police report that alcohol may have been a factor.

But plaintiffs must generally prove the first prong through witnesses and other circumstantial evidence. The way the statute is worded, it is usually a good idea to have at least two credible witnesses who can testify that the driver had bloodshot eyes, was speaking incoherently, had an unsteady balance, and exhibited other signs of intoxication. Drunk people nearly always present a danger to themselves or others, simply by crossing the street or walking down the sidewalk.

The negligent driver may not be the only person responsible for your injuries. For a free consultation with an aggressive New Braunfels personal injury attorney, contact our office. We routinely handle a wide range of motor vehicle collision cases.