When one person injures another, the injured party may seek compensation for his or her injuries and associated expenses by filing a personal injury lawsuit against the person who injured him or her. In some situations, a third-party may share some of the blame. This third-party may not have directly contributed to the injury-causing incident, but his or her involvement enabled the defendant (the person being sued) to commit the action.
One of the most prevalent examples of this situation would be a bar or other establishment that serves alcohol to an obviously intoxicated patron. In Texas, the laws meant to prevent such incidents are known as dram shop laws.
How Do Dram Shop Claims Work?
Any establishment or “social host” that provides alcohol to guests may be held responsible for any injuries that those guests cause to others after they leave the premises. Additionally, liquor stores and other alcohol vendors can be held responsible for damages in some cases, including any instance of alcohol being sold or given to anyone under the age of 18 or any instance of providing alcohol to an obviously intoxicated person.
A “social host” describes any individual who knowingly supplies alcohol to individuals under the age of 18. This does not apply to parents – a parent cannot be held accountable as a social host if his or her child injures another person due to intoxication. Under Texas laws, social hosts include any adult who is not a parent, legal guardian, or spouse of the minor under 18. Social host laws also apply to individuals who knowingly serve alcohol to minors under 18 or permit alcohol consumption by minors under 18 on his or her property.
As with any other personal injury case, a personal injury lawsuit involving dram shop laws can provide the injured party with various forms of compensation, including:
- Medical expenses. Compensation for medical costs can include emergency response services and care, hospital bills, the costs of any necessary subsequent treatments (such as physical therapy or reconstructive surgeries), prescription costs, and any other medical expenses resulting from the incident.
- Pain and suffering. The plaintiff’s attorney will consult with medical professionals who will act as expert witnesses. Expert witnesses have no personal involvement in a case, but instead, provide their expertise to the court to help a jury determine how an injury affected the plaintiff. Although it sounds difficult to quantify physical pain and emotional trauma with a dollar figure, expert witness testimony allows a court to determine a reasonable amount of compensation.
- Lost income. If an injury prevents the plaintiff from returning to work for an extended period, he or she can claim lost wages as compensation. If an incident results in a permanent disability that prevents the plaintiff from resuming his or her job permanently, he or she can sue for the income that he or she would have reasonably expected to earn in the future.
- Property damage. This includes damage to a vehicle or destroyed personal belongings.
Cases involving dram shop laws often involve extensive investigation, such as interviewing patrons and staff of the establishment who saw the intoxicated individual, security footage from the establishment, and consultations with expert witnesses. An attorney is crucial for successfully navigating any personal injury case and any case involving Texas dram shop laws – which will likely be complex.
The individual directly responsible for the incident and the establishment that served alcohol to the individual can both be held accountable for the incident. For example, if you were struck by a drunk driver and injured, you can sue the driver for compensation for the damages listed above. Additionally, if that driver just left a bar that continued to serve him or her alcohol after he or she was visibly drunk, the bar can also be held accountable for contributing to the incident.