Drunk Driving Accidents and Dram Shop Liability

A Corpus Christi family is making headlines with their recent lawsuit against an Austin bar – and shedding light on a little known liability law that holds drinking establishments accountable for over serving patrons. In a wrongful death claim filed by the family, they are suing for damages resulting from the bar over serving a 25-year-old Austin woman who was later involved in fatal drunk driving accident that killed their son.

On July 1, 2012, the 25-year-old woman had been drinking with the young man at a local bar. After leaving together, the woman drove her vehicle down a boat ramp and into Lady Bird Lake, thinking it was an onramp to I-35. The driver and another passenger were able to escape the vehicle underwater, but the young man did not and eventually drowned. According to local law enforcement agencies, the woman was charged with intoxicated manslaughter.

The young man’s family is now filing a wrongful death claim against the woman and the bar they believe over served her that night. Although this is the first case of this nature for the local bar, these types of claims are not uncommon. In fact, another bar owned by the same proprietors had faced a similar wrongful death suit in May of 2011. According to officials from the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, they will be investigating the case to determine who can be held responsible.


Drunk driving accidents claim the lives of thousands of Americans each year. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) more than 10,000 people perished in alcohol-related crashes in 2010 alone – a figure that equates to approximately one drunk driving death every 51 minutes. These statistics are alarming and also a wake-up-call to many irresponsible and negligent drivers on public roadways – they are also entirely preventable.

As any reasonable person knows that driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol is a dangerous, negligent, and illegal act, they can be held liable for the harm they cause to others. Victims of drunk driving accidents have every right to file personal injury claims against the at-fault driver to recover any physical, emotional, and financial damages that resulted from their accident and injuries. In many cases, courts also award victims exemplary damages as a way to further punish wrongdoers for gross acts of negligence and to allow victims to obtain additional compensation.

In the most tragic cases that involve fatal drunk driving accidents, certain family members of the decedent – including spouses, children, and parents – can pursue compensation by filing a wrongful death claim. In this particular case, the young man’s family is doing just that by filing a claim against the woman who was driving.

In addition, the family is also pursuing compensation from the bar they claim over served the woman. Although many may not be aware of the various liability laws in place, establishments that serve alcohol do have legal requirements to keep patrons free from preventable harm. By over serving the woman, they may have failed to uphold this duty and can potentially be held liable. These laws of liability – known formally as dram shop laws – allow victims and families to recover their damages and hold responsible parties accountable for their actions.

In order to effectively file these claims, victims and families must prove that a bar – or its employees – knew (or should have known) that a customer was intoxicated. In Texas specifically, drinking establishments can be held liable when a patron who is intoxicated to the point that they present a clear danger to themselves and others is over served.

If you or your loved one has suffered damages at the hands of a drunk driver, allow our firm’s Austin personal injury attorneys to guide and support you through these difficult times. Drunk driving accidents are entirely preventable, and at-fault drivers must be held accountable for their negligent actions. By working with a proven and experienced legal team, you can obtain the aggressive representation you need as we fight for the maximum compensation possible. Place your trust in a firm with a proven record of success. Learn more about drunk driving accidents, your rights, and how our firm can help by contacting The Loewy Law Firm today.