Texas has certain laws called dram shop laws. These laws allow victims of accidents to sue providers of alcohol if they have overserved obviously intoxicated patrons, and those patrons then went on to cause the accident. Common examples of this are when people are injured or killed in drunk driving accidents.
Whilst this may seem like a simple process, it can be exceptionally difficult to prove this liability. The laws are designed to strike a balance so that the punishment is fair and reasonable. Venues should not be automatically held liable just because they serve alcohol to irresponsible patrons.
Due to their complexity, many of the state’s personal injury lawyers refuse to take dram shop liability cases whatsoever.
Here at Abraham Watkins, we believe all victims should have the chance to seek fair and reasonable compensation for their injuries and damages, no matter how complex the case may be. We are one of the longest-serving law firms in the state of Texas, boasting over 70 years of service and experience.
As part of our goal to offer reliable representation to all victims, we keep our phone lines open every hour of every day, 24/7, around the clock. We also offer a free consultation and case evaluation to all potential new clients. Finally, we work on a contingency-fee-basis. This means you do not pay a penny unless we win your case.
Speak to an experienced Texas City dram shop lawyer today at 713-535-9319.
Texas City Dram Shop Laws
Across the state, there are 72 drunk driving accidents each day. This is a staggering statistic and a problem that the state is trying to address. Dram shop laws are one way that Texas is trying to curb this worrying number.
There is a collection of different statutes that cover the improper service of alcohol, and all of them are detailed in The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Code, which provides details of the social host and dram shop liability laws that govern Texas.
Claims Against Dram Shops
Of all the dram shop claims in Texas City, the most common violations are usually committed by bars, restaurants, hotels, and liquor stores. In order to sell alcohol, a business needs to obtain an alcohol license from the TABC, the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission.
Under Texas dram shop law, a venue can be sued if they:
- Serve alcohol to someone under the legal drinking age of 21.
- Serve alcohol to an obviously intoxicated adult.
If it is found that a venue has served alcoholic beverages to a minor under the age of 21, and they go on to cause an accident, they can be found liable for any damages caused by that accident. In some cases they can be found liable for the damages that the drunk driver incurs too.
When it comes to adults, dram shops are allowed to serve alcohol unless the patron is obviously intoxicated. Signs of obvious intoxication can include slurring of words or stumbling. If it is found that a dram shop has indeed served alcoholic beverages to a patron who is obviously intoxicated, they can be found liable for any damages caused by that drunken patron.
Dram Shop Claims Against Social Hosts
Social hosts are those that are not licensed to serve alcohol but instead provide it at their own private residence during a party or social event. The only way that social hosts can be found liable for the damages of their guests is if they are found to have served a minor who is not their child alcohol, and they have gone on to cause damages and/or injuries to themselves or others.
Who Can File a Dram Shop Lawsuit in Texas City?
If you are uncertain whether or not your specific case qualifies you to make a claim under the Texas dram shop act, you should speak to one of our dedicated Houston dram shop lawyers. We cover all of Texas, including Texas City, Houston, and Austin.
We offer a free consultation and case evaluation to new clients so that you can come to us without fear of fees to obtain some unbiased and honest legal advice.
Potential victims that may be owed damages in a Texas dram shop claim include:
- In certain cases, the drunk drivers themselves, but usually only if they were a minor under 21.
- The family and relatives of an adult drunk driver who was over-served alcohol at a dram shop.
- Family members of someone who died in a drunk driving accident.
- Owners of property damages in an incident involving alcohol.
- Victims of car accidents, fights, or attacks caused by an intoxicated person who was overserved too much alcohol.
What do I Need To Prove For a Successful Dram Shop Claim in Texas City
You will need to prove certain elements in order for your case to be valid. You will need to first prove that the customer was, in fact, served alcohol whilst obviously intoxicated at a dram shop. Then you will need to prove that the drunken individual went on to cause an accident that involved the victim and that the accident directly caused the victim to suffer injury.
For cases involving a minor, you only need to prove that the liable party, be it a dram shop or social host, served or provided the underage minor alcohol. There is no requirement that the minor had to be obviously intoxicated already.
All dram shop claims are based upon the fact that there was negligence involved. Negligent behavior is any behavior seen as different from how a reasonable person would have acted in the same situation. If it is reasonable that another bartender would have refused service to the individual in question, the bartender who served the obviously intoxicated patron acted negligently.
The act of proving that a fully licensed dram shop has acted negligently can be a difficult one. In the majority of cases, they will not admit fault for what has happened, and it will be down to you and your attorney to provide evidence that proves otherwise.
Evidence may include:
- CCTV Footage
- Witness Statements
- Toxicology Reports
You will also have to prove that the at-fault patron was obviously intoxicated. Symptoms of obvious intoxication may include:
- Slurred speech.
- Alcohol-smelling breach.
- Someone told the server that they had already been drinking.
- Bloodshot eyes.
- Staggering or falling over.
- Being sick.
- Being aggressive.
- Using the wall or bar to hold themselves up.
- The customer had already been served a substantial amount of alcohol at the venue, enough that an average person would be drunk.
Why Are Dram Shops Responsible For The Actions of Their Customers?
We are sometimes asked why a dram shop is responsible for its customers. Often this is a question asked by defendants who were not present during the incident,
Dram shops owe their customers a duty of care due to the nature of the intoxicating substances that they sell. If a bartender serves alcohol to a newly turned 21-year-old to the point they can no longer hold themselves up or make sensible decisions, the dramshop is responsible for them.
When overly intoxicated, a patron may not realize that they should stop drinking. Some bartenders and venues take advantage of this and knowingly serve them alcohol past a point that is sensible.
Texas City Dram Shop Liability Defenses
Even if you have clear proof that the dram shop broke its duty of care by serving alcohol to an obviously intoxicated patron, there are still ways in which they can limit their liability. The best way to combat this is to seek representation from a skilled dram shop lawyer.
The most commonly used defense against these claims is using the Safer Harbor Defense. This can be used by employers to help reduce and limit their liability. To use the Safe Harbor Defense, employers must:
- Have provided a 2-hour training course designed by the TABC to increase awareness around the dangers of overserving alcohol.
- Be able to evidence that they have given the employee who served the alcohol this course.
If dram shops follow these steps and the guidance laid out by the TABC, and their employees are kept up to date with their training, they may be able to use the Safer Harbor Defense to reduce their liability.
Deadlines For a Texas Dram Shop Claim
The state of Texas places a deadline on how long you have to bring a claim against a dram shop. The statute of limitations states that from the incident of the accident, you have 2 years to bring a claim before you are barred from making any claims relating to that incident.
Two years may seem like a long time, but this is only the deadline for bringing the claim. For all personal injury cases, the sooner you act, the better your chances of seeking full and maximum compensation. This is because the sooner you get in touch, the sooner your attorney will be able to begin their investigations. Evidence is easier to find and more substantial the closer to the incident it is discovered.
The longer you wait, the more chance there will be that the CCTV footage is deleted or that the witnesses’ memories become fuzzy.
Potential Damages in a Texas City Dram Shop Case
In order to recover your damages and seek compensation, your attorney will need to consider what your economic and non-economic damages are worth.
Economic damages include all things that have a physical price tag. Medical bills and vehicle repairs are examples of economic damages as they will be easily supported by evidence, such as receipts and invoices.
Non-economic damages are more difficult to work out; this is where an experienced dram shop lawyer will prove essential. They will be able to work out what things like your pain and suffering, emotional trauma, and loss of enjoyment of life are worth. They will be able to do this more accurately if they have a long history of success in similar cases.
If you have been involved in a serious accident with a drunken individual, you may have suffered extensive property damage as a result. Common examples of property damage are car accident cases. If you were driving at the time and somebody crashed into you, you will most likely have repair bills or costs to replace your vehicle.
If the drunken individual caused accidental fire damage or deliberate arson, the damage to your property would need to be recovered too.
The majority of accident cases that involve injuries will require the victim to take time off work to receive treatment, recover from their injuries and receive ongoing physical therapy. This time off work may lead to a loss of income and wages.
For victims who have families that rely on their income, this can be a serious worry, one that may lead to even further mental trauma and distress. It should not be down to the victim to cover this shortfall when their injuries were caused by another party and their negligent behavior.
Thankfully, as part of your claim, you can seek all future and past loss of wages. This means any wages you have missed out on as a result of the injury can be recovered. It also means that you can recover all future wages. To consider this, your attorney will speak to your physicians and may consult with their own experts to see how much time they think you may need to take from work in the future.
If your injuries are serious enough that you can never return to work in the same capacity as you did before, for example, if you can no longer lift the weight required to do your job or hold your tools, your attorney may seek a lifetime of lost wages.
Medical expenses are often the most serious worry for victims following an accident. Some people may not have medical coverage, and even those that do may not have enough to cover the costs of all the treatment they will need to receive. This can lead to a difficult decision, one where a victim has to decide whether or not they pay for the treatment they need themselves if they can even afford it.
Fortunately, as part of your claim, you are entitled to recover all of the costs that you have incurred or may incur in the future in terms of your medical expenses. This includes all treatment costs, procedure costs, therapy, physical therapy, transport to and from the hospital, modifications to the household,d, and childcare while you were in the hospital.
If your injuries are going to require a lifetime of treatment and medication, your attorney will calculate what this is worth with the help of your physicians and their medical experts.
In order to assist your attorney in calculating these damages in a way that is fair and reasonable and, thus, hard to dispute, you need to make sure you retain all invoices and bills. It is also a really smart idea to keep a medical diary each day. In this diary, jot down your pain levels, mood levels, and any treatment you have required. This could prove instrumental to your attorney when it comes to them calculating what your damages are worth.
Pain and Suffering Damages
Pain and suffering is a term that encompasses a wide variety of different things. These non-economic damages are designed to compensate you for your suffering, both physically and mentally. If you have been through weeks of pain as a result of your accident or your treatment, you deserve to be compensated for this. If the accident has caused you mental trauma and distress, pain and suffering damages should account for this.
Pain and suffering damages also include a loss of enjoyment of life. This covers situations where the accident has affected your enjoyment of life. An example of this would be if you were involved in a car crash and now have long-lasting pain in your back that prevents you from picking up your young son and carrying him on your shoulders as you did before the accident happened.
Pain and suffering damages are the hardest of all the damages to calculate, and this is where the skill and experience of your attorney will come into play. The more experience they have in winning cases, the more experienced they will be in calculating these damages in a way that the other party, their insurance company, and/or the courts will find agreeable.
Wrongful Death Damages
The worst-case scenario we face is when a negligent party’s actions have caused the death of a loved family member. Wrongful death cases are the most serious cases we deal with here at Abraham Watkins, partly because no compensation will ever bring the deceased victim back.
While no compensation will ease the grief of losing a loved one, wrongful death damages can cover things like funeral costs and loss of consortium and wages. This can at least allow the family to grieve without the worry of financial hardship.
Wrongful death cases need to be dealt with by an extremely experienced attorney as they are complex and difficult. At Abraham Watkins, we have helped the victims of the wrongfully deceased seek full and maximum compensation.
Do I Really Need a Dram Shop Lawyer in Texas City?
There is no law that states you cannot seek compensation by yourself; in fact, every single year, many people choose to do so. However, they usually do so under common misconceptions, and we highly recommend against it.
Some people worry that the cost of an attorney will be so high that they walk away with very little or worse off. This is simply not the case in the majority of lawsuits. We work on a contingency fee basis that is based on a flat percentage of the settlement. First, this means you cannot end up worse off than you began, and second, it is worth noting that with a representation, the compensation sum is usually drastically higher.
Next, victims will be dealing with many things: their recovery, mental well-being, and distress, and this is not the best place to fight a lawsuit. This case could progress over several years, and alone, you will be required to keep the fight going and to keep dedicating your time and energy throughout those years.
Insurance companies do not want to pay large sums of money. Period. This means they will not have your best interests at heart, quite the opposite. They will employ a full legal team of aggressive, highly trained loss adjusters and attorneys who have the sole job of reducing their liability. They dedicate their professional career to this, and this puts you at a massive disadvantage alone.
Often, simply hiring an attorney with a strong, aggressive, and reliable reputation will be enough to win you an out-of-court settlement. If you cannot achieve this, you will be thankful that you have a fierce advocate in your corner if the case proceeds to the courtroom.
What Is the Dram Shop Claim Process in Texas City, TX?
Every dram shop claim will have unique elements, circumstances, and series of events that lead to the accident. This means the process will be individual in each case. However, they tend to follow a similar framework.
The very first thing you will need to do is to contact a skilled attorney for a free consultation and case evaluation to find out whether your claim is worth pursuing.
Once you have had your free consultation you can agree to representation or walk away. If you walk away, at least you will have more knowledge than before.
Following your free consultation, you are under no obligation to representation. You may decide to walk away with more knowledge than you had before.
If you do agree to representation, your attorneys will waste no time springing into action. They will employ the full force of the resources at their command to seek evidence and build your case.
Determine Your Settlement Value
Once they have found the evidence, they need to build the strongest possible case on your behalf. The next stage will be figuring out what your damages are worth. This will allow them to calculate a settlement figure that is accurate, fair, and reasonable.
If your attorney is skilled, the damages they calculate will be difficult to dispute, making it more likely that the other party accepts quickly and out of court, especially if the evidence strongly points to the negligent behavior of the at-fault party and the dram shop that served them.
If the other party accepts, you get your settlement and pay your attorney their fees. If they decline or offer a counteroffer you are not happy with, your attorney will escalate the case and file your claim in court. They will then use the case they have built on your behalf to convince the courts that you are, in fact, deserving of the compensation you seek.
How Do I Find The Best Dram Shop Lawyer in Texas City, TX?
Every law firm will lay claim to the fact that they are the best for the job. This makes it difficult for new clients to decide which law firm they want to proceed with, especially for those that have never needed the representation of an attorney before.
It may feel like the right decision to hire attorneys based on their flashy advertisements or billboards, but we recommend you dig a little deeper, as these do not always lead you to the best law firms.
Ask your potential attorney for their past victories and successful cases and any referrals they can provide you. A good attorney will be more than happy to oblige, and one that will not do this should be avoided. You should also check independent review sites such as AVVO and look for accreditation, awards, and board specializations.
You could be dealing with your attorney for several years if your case drags on, and this means you need to make sure that you and your attorney get along. During your consultation, make sure you take the time to ensure your personalities don’t clash.
Our Reputation at Abraham Watkins
Here at Abraham Watkins, we have 70 years of experience serving the state, and we have a long history of victory, representing clients in similar cases to yours.
We have won several awards and accolades, one of which being the “Best Law Firms 2022,” and our track record speaks for itself.
While we are confident in our abilities, we believe all clients should take the time to research themselves and make informed decisions from a place of clarity. For that reason, we have compiled a list of questions we think it important that you ask any potential attorney before agreeing to representation:
- What is your level of experience in dram shop cases in Texas?
- What is your level of experience representing victims of dram shop cases in court?
- Do you take an upfront fee?
- If I have questions, how quickly can I expect a response?
- What percentage of my settlement will you take?
- Can I see reviews from your previous clients?
Texas City Dram Shop Lawyer, FAQ
Who is the 3rd party who is held liable in a dram shop liability lawsuit?
In a dram shop liability case, you are not claiming from the at-fault party; you are claiming from a third party, the dram shop that served them.
How long do dram shop cases take?
The length that a dram shop liability case takes to complete will vary wildly from case to case depending upon the circumstances and complexity. A case with clear liability, minor injuries, and 1 victim will be over a lot quicker than a case with multiple victims, serious injuries, and varying levels of liability.
Cases like this can often take several years to complete.
Should I speak with an insurance adjuster?
It may be impossible to avoid speaking to an insurance company altogether, and they may attempt to contact you numerous times over the length of the case. Just remember that no insurance company has your best interests at heart. Always be careful what you say to them, and do not let them record you, as they may use what you say as a way to reduce liability.
Never say you feel okay, you are sorry, or anything that will allow them to reduce their liability. If possible, ask them to liaise with your attorney going forward.
Contact a Texas City, TX Dram Shop Lawyer Today
Dram shops cases are complicated and come with a number of variables. The best way of navigating complex cases like this is to seek the representation of a skilled attorney with a lot of experience in similar cases.
They will be able to liaise with other parties, investigate what happened, collect evidence and will build the best possible case on your behalf.
We have been serving the state of Texas for 70 years, and our reputation has been built upon our dedication to our clients and our skill both in and out of the courtroom. We are proud winners of “Best Lawyers 2022”.Call us at 713-535-9319!
Real trial lawyers, real results
Our Record of Success
Chemical Plant Fire