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Amarillo Car Accident Lawyer

112 SW 8th Avenue, Suite 301

Amarillo, Texas 75219

(806) 590-0000

It is well known that driving under the influence (DUI) and driving while impaired (DWI) are significant factors in many Texas motor vehicle accidents. Although the impaired driver is obviously liable for any damages incurred in an accident in which he or she was involved, is there any liability attached to a business that sold alcohol to the driver?

Most states have either “case” or “common” law that has held the business, such as a bar or package store, that sells alcohol to an obviously intoxicated person to be at least partially liable for the subsequent actions of that person. Other states have enacted specific laws that hold businesses and their employees liable for any consequences of such sales. These laws are usually referred to as “Dram Shop” law, where “Dram Shop” is a reference to the 19th century term for a bar or tavern.

Texas has a Dram Shop law included in its Alcohol Beverage Code. The Dram Shop law specifically states that an establishment where alcoholic beverages are sold have a legal responsibility not to sell such beverages to a patron who is obviously intoxicated. This ban on sales to intoxicated individuals has also been extended to include package sales by liquor stores and by gas stations/convenience stores. If any business subject to the Dram Shop law sells to an obviously intoxicated individual, that business can be held liable for damages if that person later causes an accident.

The Dram Shop law does provide for a defense to liability claims against a business establishment. This defense is known as the “Trained Server Safe Harbor Defense” and can be used to have a liability claim against a business dismissed if it can be shown that:

  • A business has a policy that all alcohol-serving employees must attend an Alcoholic Beverage Control-approved training course as a condition of employment.
  • An employee has attended such a course and was therefore a “trained server.”
  • The business has not encouraged, directly or indirectly, any employee to ignore the law against serving alcohol to an obviously intoxicated individual.

If a business can prove that it has complied with each requirement of the Trained Server Safe Harbor provision, it can ask to be dismissed “with prejudice” from a lawsuit. When a lawsuit is dismissed “with prejudice” the lawsuit cannot be refiled at a later time using the same alleged justifications.

Lawsuits and Dram Shops

Including a business that sold to an intoxicated customer in a lawsuit can substantially increase the amount of a settlement because a business will practically always carry a larger amount of liability insurance than the impaired driver. As an example, the minimum automobile insurance required by Texas law is the “30/60/25” policy, where “30/60” means “$30,000 of liability for each injured party to a maximum of $60,000 per accident” and “25” means “$25,000 of liability for property damage. Since many drivers carry only the minimum amount of insurance, if they carry insurance at all, the maximum amount that can be recovered from an impaired driver after an accident would be $85,000.

On the other hand most taverns and convenience stores carry higher amounts of liability insurance and most “chain stores” carry supplemental liability coverage specifically for alcohol sales. Thus, including the seller of alcohol in a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit could substantially increase the amount of a negotiated settlement or the damages awarded by a jury.

Lawsuits Against Impaired Drivers and Retail Alcohol Sellers

In order for an intoxicated driver and the seller of alcohol lawsuit to succeed, it must be proven that the establishment sold alcohol to an obviously intoxicated person. This will require a personal injury lawyer to examine evidence such as recordings made by security cameras, statements from witnesses, accident reconstructions made by specialists, as well as police and hospital reports.

Anyone in the Amarillo / Panhandle area who has been injured in an accident caused by an impaired driver is encouraged to contact the Doan Law Firm – Amarillo at (806) 590-0000 to arrange a consultation with our Amarillo auto accident lawyer to review your legal options.

At the Doan Law Firm your first consultation with our Amarillo auto accident lawyer is always free and does not obligate you to hire our firm. Should you decide that we should represent your case, we will agree to pay all expenses necessary for us to win your Amarillo auto accident lawsuit in return for an agreed-upon percentage of your final settlement.

If you or a family member were injured by an impaired driver, let the Doan Law Firm’s help you win the settlement that you are legally entitled to under Texas law.

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