Can Bars Be Held Liable For Drunk Driving Accidents in Austin, TX
You’re driving home one evening when, all of a sudden, another car crashes into yours. It turns out that the driver who hit you had just left a popular bar in downtown Austin. They’d had a few drinks and weren’t capable of driving safely.
Your injuries are quite severe. You’ll need a lot of medical attention and will probably have to miss work for an extended period of time. Who can be held financially responsible for your damages? Can you sue the bartender who served the driver or the bar where he got drunk before getting behind the wheel? Find out more below.
If you’ve been injured due to a drunk driver in Austin, call our Austin personal injury law firm today to find out if you have a case against the bar that served them.
Bars Can Be Liable For Drunk Drivers in Texas
Texas, like many other states, has what is known as a “dram shop” law. This law basically says that a person who serves alcohol can be liable for an accident and resulting injuries.
In Texas, the state’s dram shop law is codified in Alcoholic Beverage Code Section 2.02. The law explains that you can file a lawsuit against a bar or bartender if they “provide, sell, or serve” alcohol to a person who is “obviously intoxicated to the extent that he presented a clear and present danger to himself and others.”
However, intoxication must be the “proximate cause of the damages suffered.”
In other words, you can sue a bar if they continued to serve someone who was obviously drunk and unable to drive safely.
How Can I Prove a Bar Is Liable After an Austin Drunk Driving Accident?
In Texas, the law says that a bar or bartender can be liable for damages resulting from a drunk driving accident. Texas is not a strict liability state. This means that you’ll have to prove that a bar is responsible, at least in part, for your injuries. In order to recover compensation from a bar or whoever provided the drunk driver with alcohol, you’ll have to prove:
- The bar or establishment sold alcohol to the drunk driver
- The driver was drunk, in part, because he was overserved by the establishment
- You suffered an injury or some harm because the driver was drunk, due to being overserved
In other words, you have to connect your drunk driving accident with the bar’s decision to serve an obviously intoxicated patron.
Allocating Fault For a Drunk Driving Accident in Texas
You weren’t injured solely because an Austin bar overserved a customer. That drunk driver made the decision to get behind the wheel and operate a vehicle. They started the vehicle and put their foot on the gas. They turned the vehicle onto the road and crashed into your car.
Texas is a modified comparative fault state. This means that anyone who contributed to your drunk driving accident and injuries can be responsible for your injuries. Fault is allocated to everyone who shares blame. The more someone contributes to an accident, the more fault they share. (Yes, you are eligible to receive compensation even if you are partially at fault.)
Example: John is out late one night drinking with friends. They hop from one bar to another. Shortly before last call, John, who holds his alcohol quite well, orders another drink. The bartender doesn’t know that John has been drinking for hours and doesn’t see any reason to deny him two shots of tequila. On his way home, John slams into a car and injures three people.
In this scenario, it might be hard to hold the bar or bartender liable for the accident. The bartender didn’t knowingly overserve an obviously intoxicated patron.
Example: Jeff was fired from his job and spent the remainder of his day planted on a barstool at a local pub. The bartender continues to top off his whiskey for hours. Jeff becomes clearly intoxicated, but the bar continues to serve him. As Jeff drives home, he hits a pedestrian crossing the street.
The pedestrian will undoubtedly try to hold the pub responsible for his injuries. The fact that the bartender overserved Jeff is a proximate cause of his injuries. Fault will have to be allocated between Jeff and the pub. If they’re equally at fault, each will be liable for 50 perfect of the pedestrian’s damages.
Can a Drunk Driver Sue the Bar That Served Them?
What if Jeff, from the example above, gets hurt when he hits the pedestrian? Can he sue the bar for his damages, too? Yes, but he can only recover compensation if he’s not primarily responsible for the accident. His claim will be barred – and the pub will be off the hook – if he shares more than half of the blame for the accident.