When a Bar Can be Responsible for Drunk Drivers


A drunk driver can cause an incredible amount of damage. It seems like almost every week we hear about a drunk driver killing, or seriously injuring an innocent family. Most of these drivers end up in jail or prison, but there is little or no recourse for the people who are injured, or the family of those who are killed. The driver’s insurance policy often won’t even cover the medical bills of those he injured. This is one of the reasons why Texas has adopted Dram Shop laws.

Dram Shop laws make it so a bar, restaurant, or other establishment that serves alcohol can be held responsible for the damage caused by an intoxicated customer, if they continue to serve alcohol to an obviously intoxicated customer (commonly called over-serving). This law sets out guidelines to make sure that the employees who serve alcohol are properly trained, and establishments that serve alcohol have policies against over-serving customers.

In general, it is the responsibility of any establishment that serves alcohol to have policies that ensure that every employee who actually serves alcohol has taken a training program on how to avoid over-serving. Establishments need to enforce strict policies regarding serving alcohol to an intoxicated person. Some indications of a strict policy are that the company makes all employees sign a copy of their policy on over-serving, that management regularly holds meetings to reinforce those policies, and that a copy of the policy is prominently posted where employees can see it. If a bar or restaurant does not take these responsibilities seriously, they run the risk of being held responsible for the injuries caused by a customer who is over-served.

One of the indications of an establishment that does not take its responsibilities seriously is over-serving the same customer two or more times in 12 months – whether or not that customer ends up hurting anyone else. Employees must also be re-certified every two years in a training program on over-serving. An establishment that allows those certifications to lapse may be held responsible for the injuries that an intoxicated customer causes. Managers and owners also need to be careful not to over-serve customers. If an employee sees the owner over-serving a customer, it can be seen as encouragement to do likewise, regardless of the company policies.

Whenever a bar or restaurant does not follow these best practices, they are putting the public at risk, and can be held responsible for the damage that an intoxicated customer causes.