Wednesday, March 23rd, 2016
Injury or death caused by a drunk driver is perhaps the most upsetting, anger-provoking of all kinds of personal injury cases. The thought of an innocent victim suffering serious or fatal injury at the hands of an irresponsible individual can evoke outrage among members of the community.
Our Tough Houston Lawyers aggressively pursue claims against irresponsible drinkers and the bars, nightclubs, and restaurants that improperly serve them. According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, drunk drivers injured more than 250,000 individuals during 2005. Although the law can never replace a loved one, it does provide a means of recovery for victims. Victims can sue the drunk driver under the general laws of negligence, but often the drunk driver is either uninsured or underinsured and has few, if any, assets to support a lawsuit.
Even if there is no way to pursue recovery against the drunk driver, there may be a way to pursue recovery against the person who provided the alcoholic beverage to the drunk driver. People who serve alcoholic beverages may be liable under Texas law for damages damages caused by the person who was served those alcoholic beverages. Under Texas’s Dram Shop statute it must be “apparent” to the defendant “at the time” the alcohol is provided, sold, or served that the person consuming the alcohol is “obviously intoxicated to the extent that he presents a clear danger to himself and others. The “intoxication of the recipient” must also be a “proximate cause of the damages suffered.” Tex. Alco. Bev. Code § 2.02.
Liability may be imposed either under specific state laws (“dram shop acts”) or under the general law of negligence. Dram shop acts (“dram” was once a common term for “liquor”) are laws that impose liability for negligence on the sellers of alcoholic beverages for sales to persons under the legal drinking age or to those who are obviously intoxicated. Tex. Alco. Bev. Code § 2.02. A liquor store, bar, or restaurant may be responsible for any damages caused by a person’s drinking if it sold alcohol to an underage person or to a person who was obviously intoxicated. Tex. Alco. Bev. Code § 2.02.
Liability can attach to “social hosts” as well. A social host is an individual who serves alcoholic beverages in a social setting, such as a home or a party, or as where an employer serves alcoholic beverages at a company party. The social host is not required to make sure that no one is consuming more alcohol than they can handle unless the host can reasonably be aware of a problem and prevent it. In Texas, however, the social host cannot be held liable. See Smith v. Merritt, 40 Tex. Sup. J 377 (1997).
In all matters involving personal injury it is essential that measures be taken promptly to preserve evidence, investigate the accident in question, and file a lawsuit prior to the deadline imposed by the Statute of Limitations. If you or a loved one is a victim of personal injuries, call Lassiter Law now at (800)419-0104. The initial consultation is free of charge, and if we agree to accept your case, we will work on a Contingent Fee basis, which means we get paid for our services only if there is a monetary award or recovery of funds. Don’t delay! You may have a valid claim and be entitled to compensation for your injuries, but a lawsuit must be filed before the statute of limitations expires.
The above is not legal advice. That can only come from a qualified attorney who is familiar with all the facts and circumstances of a particular, specific case and the relevant law.