In this blog entry, we discuss serious injury and wrongful death from drunk drivers . Often, this driver carries no or minimal insurance. Baseluos Law Firm strives to maximize all sources of insurance coverage to compensate the seriously injured. To do this, Michael Baseluos and his investigators search for all factors behind the intoxicated driver including how the driver received his alcohol. Traditionally, it was not necessarily unlawful to sell or provide alcoholic beverages to adults. However, many states including Texas have passed laws called “dram shop acts” which assesses liability against establishments that supply alcohol to drivers who negligently injure others persons or property.
For a liquor provider, the basic Texas dram shop liability act investigates several factors including whether the provider broke the law in selling or giving the alcohol to the DWI driver; whether such alcohol was the proximate cause of his intoxication (oftentimes, the drunk driver has received alcohol from a number of providers prior to a major accident); whether the provider knew or should have known that the defendant DUI / DWI driver was below the legal age of 21 or heavily intoxicated at the time the alcohol was furnished; whether it was objectively obvious the person was intoxicated or was underage at the time; and finally, whether the intoxication level was the primary driving factor behind a DWI / DUI death or serious injury.
The seminal case that has driven the enactment of dram shop liability laws was a NJ case called Rappaport v. Nichols , which held that a bar could be held legally liable for furnishing alcohol to an underage or visibly intoxicated individual who thereafter commits a DWI / DUI offense that kills or seriously injures pedestrians or other drivers.
The dram shop laws differ from state to state in terms of who is allowed to sue under the statute, who is a potential 3rd party, what type of behavior is considered dram shop liability, and the level of fault required. If you or a loved one have suffered injury at the hands of a drunk driver, you should contact a DWI attorney without delay. Depending on the state or jurisdiction where the DWI / DUI accident occurs, Baseluos Law Firm attorneys can bring a negligence action either under the common law , the specific state dram shop act, or a combination. Providing alcohol to a minor in of itself is considered “negligence per se”, a fancy way of saying it is an automatic violation of the dram shop law.
There are cases in which the injured party is the DWI driver himself, which presents an interesting albeit challenging case. The attorney would have to show the provider was negligent in providing the plaintiff with the alcohol, but a jury is likely to ascribe some percentage of negligence to the DWI driver himself. Percentages tend to run lower if the injured plaintiff was a pedestrian.
One of the most intriguing aspects of DWI accident law is the concept of social host liability, where the DWI injury is the result of a driver who receives his alcohol at an informal party or gathering like a wedding. Some jurisdictions especially in the Northeast, particularly NJ, have recognized social host liability to the extent the courts make no distinction between commercial and private providers of alcohol. Michael Baseluos examines all fact situations involving DWI accidents including situations where the negligent driver obtained his alcohol in an informal setting. Certain exceptions can be carved out for a social host’s liability for a drunk guest’s negligence that injures others even in jurisdictions which might not recognize social host liability.