In the state of Texas, businesses that sell or serve alcoholic beverages may find themselves facing legal challenges if a patron who was served alcohol later causes harm to themselves or others. These legal challenges often come in the form of a dram shop claim, where the injured party seeks to hold the alcohol provider liable for the consequences of the intoxicated person’s actions.
It is important for businesses to be held accountable for their actions. Victims of alcohol-related incidents deserve the opportunity to pursue justice. During the legal process, victims may find that businesses mount a defense against the claims made against them. Texas law provides certain defenses that establishments can use to protect themselves against dram shop claims.
Victims of alcohol-related injuries should be aware of the defenses that may challenge their claims. Below, the car accident attorneys at Kherkher Garcia explain some of the common defenses used in dram shop claims. If you are injured due to the negligence of someone else, do not hesitate to contact us as soon as possible.
Understanding Dram Shop Liability in Texas
Dram shop liability in Texas is governed by the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Code. Under this law, a business that sells or serves alcoholic beverages can be held liable for damages caused by an intoxicated person if certain conditions are met. To establish liability, the injured party must prove that:
- The provider served alcohol to a person who was obviously intoxicated to the extent that they presented a clear danger to themselves and others.
- The intoxication was a proximate cause of the injury or damages.
Defenses Against a Dram Shop Claim
While dram shop liability is a serious concern for alcohol-serving establishments, Texas law provides several defenses that can be used to counter these claims. Some of the common defenses include:
Lack of Notice
One defense available to alcohol providers in Texas is the lack of notice regarding the patron’s intoxication. Establishments are not expected to be mind readers, and if a patron was able to conceal their intoxication or exhibited no obvious signs of impairment, the provider may argue that they had no reason to refuse service.
Safe Harbor Provision
The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Code includes a Safe Harbor provision that provides protection for alcohol providers in certain situations. If an establishment requires its employees to attend a Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) approved seller training program, and the employee completes the program within 30 days of their hiring date, the business may be entitled to a defense under the Safe Harbor provision. This defense highlights the importance of staff training and education in recognizing signs of intoxication.
Establishments may also argue that the actions of the intoxicated person were unforeseeable and that an intervening cause was responsible for the injury or damages. For example, if a patron leaves the premises and engages in reckless behavior unrelated to the alcohol they consumed, the establishment may argue that they cannot be held responsible for actions beyond their control.
Another defense revolves around the concept of causation. Establishments can argue that even if they did serve alcohol to an intoxicated person, their actions were not the proximate cause of the harm suffered. This defense requires a careful examination of the facts surrounding the incident to establish a lack of direct connection between the service of alcohol and the resulting injury.
Establishments may assert contributory negligence on the part of the injured party as a defense. If the injured person knowingly continued to consume alcohol or engaged in risky behavior despite obvious signs of intoxication, the provider may argue that the patron shares some responsibility for the outcome.
How Can Texas Businesses Avoid a Dram Shop Claim?
The goal of dram shop laws is to provide victims with legal recourse when individuals are served too much alcohol and then cause injuries. Of course, the ideal situation would be avoiding these incidents altogether, but that does not seem likely given the frequency of alcohol-related accidents, injuries, and deaths.
There are some things that businesses can do, however, to ensure compliance with the law, and therefore, reduce the chance of being subject to a dram shop claim. Texas businesses that serve alcohol can take proactive steps to minimize the risk of being involved in dram shop claims. Here are several strategies and best practices:
Businesses should ensure that all employees involved in serving or selling alcohol undergo comprehensive training programs approved by the TABC. Training should cover the identification of signs of intoxication, responsible alcohol service, and the legal obligations of alcohol providers.
Strict Adherence to Age Verification
Businesses must implement and enforce strict age verification procedures to prevent the sale or service of alcoholic beverages to underage individuals. It is crucial to verify the age of every customer by checking valid identification, such as a driver’s license or state-issued ID card.
Establish Clear Policies and Procedures
Businesses can develop and enforce clear policies and procedures for alcohol service within the establishment. This includes guidelines for refusing service to visibly intoxicated patrons, checking identification, and handling situations where customers may be attempting to over-consume.
Monitoring and Supervision
Some businesses benefit from implementing a system for monitoring the consumption of alcohol on the premises. Assigning supervisors or managers to oversee alcohol service and intervene when necessary is a positive strategy. Supervisors should encourage employees to communicate with each other and report any concerns about overconsumption.
Safe Harbor Provision Compliance
Businesses should take advantage of the Safe Harbor provision provided by the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Code. Ensure that all employees, especially those involved in alcohol service, attend TABC-approved seller training programs within 30 days of their hiring date and periodically thereafter.
Limit Alcohol Service Hours
Businesses may consider limiting the hours during which alcohol is served, especially late at night. This can help reduce the likelihood of patrons becoming overly intoxicated during extended hours of operation, or “bar hopping” and drinking at multiple locations.
Implement Drink Limit Policies
One way to help avoid overconsumption is implementing policies that limit the number of alcoholic beverages served to an individual. This can be especially important in situations where patrons may be inclined to engage in binge drinking.
Promote Alternative Transportation
Businesses that serve alcohol should always encourage the use of alternative transportation options, such as designated drivers, rideshare services, or public transportation.
Regularly Review and Update Policies
It is important for business owners and managers to stay informed about changes in state laws and regulations related to alcohol service. Regularly review and update policies and procedures, and update all employees, to ensure compliance with the latest legal requirements and industry best practices.
What to Do After an Alcohol-Related Injury
Dealing with an alcohol-related injury can be a complex and sensitive situation. If you are injured, there are some things you can do to protect your rights and wellbeing, and address the situation properly. Here’s a guide on what to do after an alcohol-related injury:
- Seek Immediate Medical Attention: The first and most critical step is to seek prompt medical attention for any injuries. Your health and well-being should be the top priority.
- Contact Law Enforcement: If the injury resulted from a criminal act, contact the local law enforcement authorities. They will conduct an investigation and document the incident.
- Document the Scene: If possible, document the scene of the incident. Take photos of any hazardous conditions or contributing factors that may have led to the injury. This documentation may be valuable later.
- Collect Witness Information: If there were witnesses to the incident, collect their contact information. Their statements may be crucial in establishing the circumstances surrounding the injury.
- Preserve Evidence: Preserve any evidence related to the incident, such as clothing, personal items, or any other objects that may be relevant. This evidence could be important if legal action is pursued.
- Keep Detailed Records: Maintain a detailed record of your medical treatments, expenses, and any other costs associated with the injury. This information will be useful if you pursue legal action.
- Contact an Attorney: If you believe the injury is due to the negligence of a business or individual, consult with an attorney who specializes in personal injury cases. They can provide guidance on your legal options.
These tips are a helpful way to get started protecting yourself and your legal rights. Remember that every situation is unique, however, and the appropriate actions will depend on the specific circumstances surrounding the accident and injuries.
Get Help from a Skilled Car Accident Attorney
If you or someone you love has been injured and you believe that alcohol was the cause, contact Kherkher Garcia today. Our skilled car accident attorneys can help you thoroughly investigate your situation and determine the best course of action. You may qualify to file a personal injury claim, dram shop claim, or other claims based on your injuries and the details of the accident.
The good news is that you do not have to investigate, explore, or pursue justice on your own. The team at Kherkher Garcia will stand beside you and ensure that you have every option for recovery. Get started with a free consultation by calling us at 713-333-1030, or by contacting us online.
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