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Two beers on a bar table

Does Texas Have Dram Shop Laws?

When a drunk driving accident happens, the intoxicated driver can be held liable for the harm that they have caused. But they might not be the only party on the hook for compensation if the crash happens in Texas. The state’s dram shop law and social host liability law can pass some liability onto the people who gave that driver the alcohol that made them drunk.

What is the Texas Dram Shop Law?

In Texas, an alcohol vendor – think of establishments like bars, restaurants, hotels, and liquor stores – can be partially liable for a drunk driving accident in specific situations. Namely, if an alcohol vendor sells alcohol to someone who is “obviously intoxicated” and is likely to drive later, and that person causes or contributes to a crash, then the vendor can share the liability.

Imagine that a man stumbles into a convenience store, smells of alcohol, and slurs his words while talking with the clerk. The man buys a bottle of hard alcohol and has a pair of car keys in his hand the entire time. Shortly after leaving the store, the man causes a drunk driving accident. In this situation, the convenience store could be liable through Texas’s dram shop law because two things should have been reasonably clear to the clerk: the man was intoxicated, and the man intended to drive while drunk.

What is the Texas Social Host Liability Law?

Alcohol vendors are not the only third parties that can be liable for a drunk driving accident in Texas. The state’s social host liability law can also pin some blame on a social host – think party hosts who give alcohol to guests for free – but in a more limited set of circumstances.

Texas’s social host liability law can put some blame on a social host if:

  • The host is at least 21 years old.
  • The host gives alcohol to a minor who is younger than 18 years old.
  • The host is not the minor’s parent or guardian; or,
  • The host does not attempt to stop the minor from drinking alcohol at their event or on their property.
  • The minor gets intoxicated and causes a car accident while drunk.

Imagine that a teenager goes to a neighbor’s barbecue and is able to get a bottle of beer from the kitchen, which he then drinks while eating outside with everyone. The neighbor would reasonably have an opportunity to intervene and take the beer away but does not. The teen leaves the barbecue to visit other friends but causes a crash on the way there. Because the neighbor did not try to stop the teen from drinking while at the party, some liability for the damages caused in the crash can be placed at the feet of the neighbor due to Texas’s social host liability law.

How to Tell If Dram Shop Laws Apply

The moment that dram shop laws are brought up in a drunk driving accident claim, you can expect there to be complications. No alcohol vendor or social host ever wants to admit that they enabled someone to drink and drive. They will try to make sure all the blame stays on that driver, even if that means you do not get a full recovery for your damages.

To make sure that you understand dram shop laws correctly and that they can apply to your case, you should always work with a local injury attorney. With a lawyer’s help, you can also be prepared for anything the defense attempts to escape liability.

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