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Drunk drivers and the Texas dram shop law

Drunk drivers are easily among the most dangerous people on Texas roads and highways. In fact, Texas has the unfortunate distinction of leading the nation in drunk driving deaths. In 2012, there were 1,296 deaths caused by drunk drivers in the state. Those deaths represented 38 percent of all traffic deaths that year. To make matters worse, the 2012 total represented an increase in drunk driving deaths of almost seven percent over the previous year.

For each of these deaths there is a family that is devastated, grieving and possibly left without the support of a breadwinner. The criminal justice system can give some sense of justice to victims' families; intoxication manslaughter is a serious offense in Texas and can result in a prison sentence of many years.

But families of a loved one killed in an accident caused by a drunk driver can also get some justice from civil proceedings. They can bring a wrongful death lawsuit against the drunk driver and recover monetary damages for loss of support, loss of companionship and funeral and medical expenses. They can also seek punitive damages.

In addition to suing the drunk driver, the surviving family may also have the right to bring what is known as a "dram shop" lawsuit. In a dram shop lawsuit the survivors sue the bar or restaurant that served alcohol to the drunk driver. The bar or restaurant can face liability under the Texas dram shop statute if, when they served the drunk driver, it was apparent the individual was obviously intoxicated to such a degree that they presented a clear danger to others or themselves.

No lawsuit, of course, can bring back a family member killed in a drunk driving accident. But a wrongful death or dram shop lawsuit can help the family recover financially from their loss.

Source: Tex. Alco. Bev. Code §§ 2.01 - 2.03, accessed Dec. 1, 2014

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