According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 11,000 people are killed each year due to drunk driving. Drunk driving accidents can devastate families, and there’s no way to make up for the lives that are lost. 

However, there are laws in place that give those harmed by intoxicated drivers the right to sue a bar if they over-served the responsible party. 

If you’ve been harmed due to a bar over-serving a patron, the dedicated Houston car accident attorney of Lapeze & Johns, PLLC, can help you hold that bar accountable.

What Is Texas Dram Shop Law?

Texas Dram Shop Law regulates the sale of alcohol to already intoxicated individuals or individuals. According to the law, businesses can be held legally responsible for selling alcohol to individuals who are “obviously intoxicated” and who go on to cause damages. This means that Texans who suffer damages at the hands of an intoxicated person may be able to sue the bar who served that person alcohol.

It’s worth noting that, under Texas Dram Shop Laws, liability for the damages caused by an over-served bar patron may be split between the bar and the patron depending on the specifics of the case. 

Due to the complexity of determining this liability, we recommend speaking to a Houston car accident attorney if you are considering pursuing compensation through Dram Shop liability.

Injured Parties Under Dram Law

Drunk driving accidents have a widespread impact on communities, so it should be no surprise that there are many different parties who may be able to sue a bar if their selling of alcohol caused an accident. 

In general, anyone who can prove they suffered damages due to a bar’s service can sue that bar, and that even includes the drunk drivers.

Those who can sue can be categorized into two groups: first- and third-party claimants.

  • First-Party Dram Shop Cases

Many dram shop cases are brought by those overserved by bars. These suits are called first-party dram shop cases and can be brought by individuals who were injured due to their own intoxication. If a person is intoxicated past the point of knowing that they should stop drinking or not drive, the bar that served them could be held responsible if they hurt themselves or others.

  • Third-Party Dram Shop Cases

Over serving intoxicated individuals can lead to serious accidents. Thankfully, under Texas law, anyone who is injured or suffers a loss due to an intoxicated person’s actions can sue the bar that over-served them. This is called a third-party dram shop case. These cases can also be filed by the families of those who suffered a wrongful death caused by an intoxicated individual. 

Who Can Sue Regarding Wrongful Death under Dram Law?

According to the Texas Department of Transportation, a quarter of all motor vehicle fatalities involved drivers who were under the influence of alcohol in 2019. Families who have suffered the loss of a loved one as the result of a drunk driver may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the bar that over-served the responsible party. 

There are only three groups who can file such a claim under Dram Shop Laws in Texas:

  • Spouses — this includes common law marriages and those who live as a married couple even if they’ve never wed.
  • Parents — adoptive parents can file but step-parents are ineligible.
  • Children — this includes adopted children but not step-children or those unable to prove parentage.

What Is Texas Social Host Law?

Texas Social Host Law protects Texans’ right to serve alcohol to guests in their own homes, even if the guest is already “obviously intoxicated.” However, there is one exception.

Texans can sue hosts for damages caused by an intoxicated person under the age of 18. Anyone over the age of 21, except the minor’s parents or guardians, may be held liable for the damages caused by that intoxicated minor if they provided the alcohol. 

The same parties who can sue under Dram Law may be able to sue under Social Host Law.

Proving Liability

If you’ve been injured by a drunk driver, even if that driver was served at a bar, it may be difficult to hold the bar responsible. There are three different factors that must be proven in order for a bar to be held liable for the actions of a patron under Texas law.

  1. It must be proven that the bar served an “obviously intoxicated” person who “presented a clear danger to himself and others.”
  2. You must prove you were injured or suffered damages.
  3. You must show that those damages were directly caused by the intoxication of the bar’s customer.

Damages Awarded in Dram Law Cases

After a drunk driving accident, injured individuals may be able to sue responsible parties  — a bar in this case — for compensation. Depending on the responsible party’s level of culpability, compensation may cover all losses and costs associated with the accident. 

Compensation comes in two forms: economic and non-economic. 

  • Economic damages cover losses that have an exact cost. This includes things like your medical bills, lost wages, reduced earning power, and property damage. 
  • Non-economic damages are more complex. These types of losses have no exact cost that can be calculated by the court. This includes damages like pain and suffering, reduced quality of life, disfigurement, loss of relationships, and other non-monetary losses.

Lapeze & Johns: Houston Car Accident Attorneys for You

We generally accept that drinking and driving is unsafe, and that drinking comes with a certain level of responsibility. However, the sale of alcohol should also be taken seriously, and bars should be held responsible if they over-serve a patron who causes an accident. 


If you’ve been involved in a drunk driving accident, contact the Houston car accident attorneys of Lapeze & Johns, PLLC, for assistance.

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About Keith Lapeze

Keith Lapeze co-founded Lapeze & Johns with the focus of delivering dependable legal services to individuals hurt in accidents caused by negligence. After graduating third in his class from Louisiana State University Law Center, Mr. Lapeze continued his calling through commercial, environmental, and tort litigation where he is admitted to practice in both Texas and Louisiana, the United States Supreme Court, and the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. Read more about Keith Lapeze here.

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