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If a drunk driver causes an accident that injures you, you can sue the driver for personal injury. If you die in the accident, your surviving relatives can file a wrongful death lawsuit.

The problem that frequently arises is that the minimum accident insurance coverage in Texas is only $30,000 per victim—and this presumes that the driver is even insured, which all too often is not the case. Moreover, personal injury and wrongful death claims frequently exceed the minimum coverage amounts.

The purpose of dram shop laws is to hold a third party (typically a bar or nightclub) liable for a personal injury or wrongful death claim. Texas dram shop laws help ensure that the victim receives full compensation.

The idea behind dram shop liability is that the third-party defendant contributed to the accident by serving alcohol to the intoxicated driver. More than 40 states have enacted dram shop laws.  

What is a “Dram Shop”?

A “dram shop” is a bar, a club, a tavern, or any other commercial establishment that sells alcohol and allows customers to consume alcohol on the premises. A liquor store is not a dram shop because it does not serve alcohol to be consumed on-premises. 

Texas Dram Shop Laws

Not all dram shop laws are the same, and Texas dram shop laws carry certain distinctive features. To win a dram shop claim in Texas, you must prove that:

  • The defendant is licensed or permitted to serve alcohol or actually sells alcohol;
  • The defendant sold, provided, or served an alcoholic beverage to a customer at a dram shop;
  • The customer was already obviously intoxicated at the time the dram shop served them alcohol; 
  • The customer proceeded to cause a vehicle accident; and
  • The accident resulted in damages (injury, death, or property damage).

The basis for liability is the assumption that the accident would not have occurred if the dram shop had refused to serve alcohol to the customer.  

Social Host Liability in Texas

Suppose you throw a party at your home. You provide alcohol, and one of your guests causes an accident on their way home. Can the victim of the accident sue you? Well, the dram shop laws of some states do allow victims to assert liability against social hosts.

This is not the case in Texas, however. A victim cannot sue you for providing alcohol as a social host, except if the alcohol was given to a minor.

Social Host Liability Exception for Minors

The victim can sue a social host for providing alcohol to a minor if:

  • The minor was under the age of 18 (even though 21 is the legal drinking age in Texas),
  • The provider was at least 21 years old,
  • The alcohol provider was not the minor’s parent or custodian, and
  • The provider knowingly served the minor or knowingly allowed someone else to serve the minor.

Except for the case of serving alcohol to a minor, a social host is not liable under the Texas dram shop law—even for providing alcohol to an obviously intoxicated guest. 

Take Decisive Action

The best time to begin preparing your claim is as soon as possible. Doing the groundwork for your claim promptly prevents it from growing stale with time.

The Zimmerman Law Firm P.C. has been fighting for the rights of central Texans since 1962, and our attorneys enjoy the benefit of over 85 years of combined experience. Allow us to put our knowledge of Texas dram shop laws to work for you. Contact us 24/7 by calling 254-333-8869 or by contacting us online.

Author Photo

Michael Zimmerman

Michael was born in Houston, Texas. His education at Baylor and Texas State Universities earned him a Bachelor of Science degree in 1987. His major was in Biology with a Minor in Chemistry. He finished his legal education at Texas Southern University in 1990, earning a Juris Doctorate from Thurgood Marshall School of Law. He was admitted to the State Bar of Texas in 1990.

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