Can I sue the restaurant that served and allowed a drunk to leave and hit me, sitting in my parked car in their parking lot?

Asked about 3 years ago - Copperas Cove, TX

I was hit while sitting in my parked car in a restaurant/bar parking lot. The driver of the other vehicle had just exited the place, and was leaving in his FORD F-250 truck when he hit my car, and 2 other cars as well. He did get out, and asked me if we could "work something out", since he was obviously intoxicated, reeking of alcohol.The police came, he was arrested, and I found out today that my car is totaled. I have had a headache since the day after this happened, and my neck and lower back hurt (I was hit from behind.)I am able to work, I just feel really nervous driving now, and the pain in my neck, back, and head are really uncomfortable, worsening as my day goes on, so that I can't sleep at night. Can I sue the restaurant for serving and knowingly allowing this guy to leave drunk?

Attorney answers (4)

  1. Matthew Ryan Montes

    Contributor Level 12

    Answered . First, you ought to go visit a doctor to see if you were significantly injured at all. Next, it is possible to sue a restaurant or bar under the Dram Shop Act. The law states that an individual must have been "obviously intoxicated" to the point where he is a "clear and present danger" to himself or others.

    You should consult with an attorney about this matter to see what your options are.

    No attorney-client relationship is established by this posting. The information provided by the this attorney on... more
  2. Charles Elwood Soechting Jr.

    Contributor Level 17

    Answered . Possibly but this is a civil law question. There are some issues with liability of establishments that a civil lawyer will know the ins and outs of.

    good luck and I am sorry for this experience.

  3. William J. Dyer

    Contributor Level 15

    Answered . Mr. Montes is correct: the Texas Dram Shop Act, section 2.02(b) of the Texas Alcoholic Beverages Code, the provider of alcoholic beverages may be liable when "(1) at the time the provision occurred it was apparent to the provider that the individual being sold, served, or provided with an alcoholic beverage was obviously intoxicated to the extent that he presented a clear danger to himself and others; and (2) the intoxication of the recipient of the alcoholic beverage was a proximate cause of the damages suffered."

    However, under the “safe harbor” provision for providers under section 106.14(a) of the Code, the actions of an employee in over-serving a patron "shall not be attributable to the employer if: (1) the employer requires its employees to attend a commission-approved seller training program; (2) the employee has actually attended such a training program; and (3) the employer has not directly or indirectly encouraged the employee to violate such law." So you might be able to sue the bartender or waitress but still find your case against the owner barred. Then the insurance issues get very complicated, too.

    The bottom line is that these cases are very hard to win. In virtually all of them, the defendant restaurant/bar can very effectively point the finger at the intoxicated driver, and argue that (a) he/she was responsible for his own actions, which were the real "proximate cause" of the accident, and (b) that it's entirely possible for someone to be legally intoxicated but yet not "obviously intoxicated to the extent that he presented a clear danger to himself and others."

    I tried a wrongful death dram shop case to a jury verdict in Harris County some years ago, representing the bar; and although the jury felt very sorry for the widow, they blamed her dead husband, not the bar that sold him alcohol, when he put himself back on the road at 2:00 a.m. -- and that was after a "$10 cover/drink for free" promotion (which bars and restaurants no longer dare to run). The jury verdict was affirmed on appeal and left undisturbed by the Texas Supreme Court.

    Now, of course, every case is different, and the results of that case don't necessarily predict what the results would be for you. Especially if your injuries are significant, I'd recommend that you consult in person with a knowledgeable personal injury attorney who can help you better assess, with more details, your potential rights and remedies against the driver who hit you and, perhaps, the restaurant where he was served.

  4. Stephen Neil Foster

    Contributor Level 15

    Answered . You can. You should talk to a lawyer about the details and your chances. If you have a good case you likely can find a lawyer to take the case on contingency, which means you never pay anything.

    Also, lawyers that handle these kinds of cases typically know doctors and other healthcare professionals that are willing to wait until the case is over to get paid. You definitely would want to have medical professionals treating you as quickly as possible. Any delays 1) might hurt your health and 2) will hurt your case.

    Just talk to a lawyer that handles contingency cases. They will take care of everything and you will have one less worry.

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