When a drunk driver gets behind the wheel of a car and causes an accident that leaves someone injured or dead, the driver is very often found liable for being negligent and reckless. But experienced Pittsburgh personal injury attorneys know that the chain of responsibility may not end with the driver.
Very likely, the driver got to the point of intoxication by being over-served at a licensed bar or restaurant. In such instances, the reach of liability may extend to the server, the bartender and the licensee of the establishment where the liquor was sold. But gathering the evidence and assembling the case can be complex and should be done with an attorney's help.
There are times when an investigation by authorities can help build the case. A story out of Texas serves as an example. Officials of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission this week issued a determination that a bar in Austin over-served a woman last July. She later drove her car into a lake. She and a front-seat passenger escaped the sinking vehicle. A 25-year-old man in the back did not. He died.
The 26-year-old woman was subsequently charged with intoxication manslaughter. The status of her criminal case isn't readily available from the reports we've seen. Nor is it apparent whether the family of the man who died has sought to file a wrongful death claim in the matter.
What is known is that Texas authorities have launched an administrative case against the operator of the bar. Possible penalties that could be levied by authorities could involve a fine or a cancelling of the bar's permit to serve alcohol. The case has been handed over to prosecutors for dispensation.
Pertinent laws in each state may vary, but in general terms the developments in this case would seem to indicate that the bar operator could be subject to liability under dram shop liability standards. Consultation with an attorney would be needed to make a final determination in this regard.
Source: Austin American-Statesman, "TABC: Lustre Pearl bar over-served driver in fatal crash," Ciara O'Rourke, March 25, 2013
- Readers wishing to learn more about our practice in the area of issues highlighted in this blog are invited to visit our Pittsburgh drunk driving dram shop page.