With Christmas, New Years Eve and bowl games it’s the season where people throw parties and serve alcohol. Sometimes that means people will drink too much and get behind the wheel to drive home intoxicated. These intoxicated drivers are not only a risk to themselves but also a risk to passengers in other vehicles. In some states the social host can be liable for over-serving a guest who then drives drunk and harms another individual.
However, in Texas we have more stringent liability laws. Social hosts serving alcohol are only liable for harm caused by their intoxicated guests in limited circumstances. If you are an individual serving alcohol in your home then you have no liability for harm caused by guests once they leave your property. (See Schlumberger Tech. Corp. v. Arthey decided by the Supreme Court of Texas in 2014.)
On the other hand, commercial businesses that serve alcohol as part of their business are liable under the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Code for over-serving patrons who later cause harm to third parties as a result of their intoxicated conduct.
Dram shop liability under Texas personal injury law
Employers hosting parties have slightly more liability risks. If an employer exercises control over the employee then the employer may be liable for the employee’s conduct. An employer must act with reasonable care to prevent employees from causing an unreasonable risk of harm to third parties. Where the employee is working for the employer, the employer’s responsibility for the employee’s conduct is almost certain.
When the employer hosts a party in which work is not performed and attendance is not mandatory then proving liability is more complicated. When the employer instructs the employee to do something then the employer is exercising the same type of authority over the employee as it does when it orders the employee to conduct work and that duty of reasonable care arises.
Injuries and liabilities in Texas due to overserving alcohol
An individual hosting a house party is likely not liable for harm an intoxicated guest causes after leaving the party. What about the person harmed by the intoxicated guest? That person may have very serious bodily injuries. He or she may have significant physical and financial losses as a result of those injuries.
Determining liability beyond the intoxicated driver is an important part of trying to make the injured person whole. More responsible parties included as legitimate defendants against the injured person means a greater probability that the injured person can recover for all of the losses sustained.
In Texas minimum automobile insurance coverage is so low that anybody with serious injuries may never recover completely. (Assuming the driver even carries insurance at all.) The ability to include a social host as a responsible party makes it more likely the injured person can recover.
The injured individual may be able to invoke his or her uninsured or underinsured coverage under his or her own car insurance policy and stack coverage on top of the intoxicated driver’s policy; but even the combination of policies may not be enough by themselves to make the injured person whole.
Hiring Texas personal injury lawyers for dram shop claims
Overserving alcohol can result in injuries to innocent bystanders under several conditions. It might lead to an assault or a car accident when the intoxicated person decides to leave a bar or home after drinking too much. People injured in DUI accidents often suffer severe injuries because the wrecks occur at high speeds or while the victims are at a stop.
Dram shop claims often involve pursuing claims against the intoxicated person as well as people and businesses involved in overserving. These claims can result in pursuing claims directly against bars and restaurants, commercial insurance policies, homeowner insurance policies and insurance companies. Dram shop claims can quickly become complex claims with many voices opposed to paying you what you deserve.
Experienced Texas personal injury lawyers can deal with the complex problems while you focus on taking care of your injuries.