One Injured in Single-Vehicle Accident on TX-323 in Rusk County
Rusk County, TX -- May 17, 2021, a 29-year-old man was seriously injured in a single-vehicle accident on State Highway 323 in Rusk County.
Authorities say the incident happened around 11:15 p.m. on TX-323 near County Road 4135. Preliminary investigation suggests the victim was driving a Dodge Journey west on the highway when the driver lost control for unknown reasons. The vehicle left the roadway to the right and entered a deep ditch, overturning and rolling left-over-top several times before coming to rest on its left side.
The driver left the scene of the accident on foot and was later transported by private vehicle to an area hospital. His wife arrived at the crash site and told investigators he was returning home from a bar in town. Officers attempted to confirm that with the victim but he reportedly would only tell them he had gone to "a place he should not have been." No charges were issued.
No further information is currently available.
Commentary on Single-Vehicle Accident on TX-323 in Rusk County
Given the described circumstances of the crash and the victim's wife telling investigators he was at a bar prior to the accident (not to mention them finding open alcoholic beverages in his vehicle) it seems quite reasonable to think impairment was a factor in this accident. Extenuating circumstances might still be discovered that discredit that theory, but as things stand investigators will likely make that their primary area of investigation. Reports don't indicate they drew any blood for testing, so it's likely they plan to subpoena the victim's treatment records to determine whether alcohol was a contributing factor.
If it was, some may assume the driver will face related DWI charges and that's more or less the end of the matter. It's true that in many cases the buck stops with the driver, but the mention of a bar's involvement--even if it remained anonymous at first--gives me pause. Texas and many other states have specific dram shop laws designed to hold licensed alcohol vendors like bars accountable if they negligently over-serve their customers.
If a local watering hole knowingly continued to provide the victim with more alcohol despite signs that he was obviously intoxicated, then that business broke dram shop law and may be considered legally responsible for the injuries he suffered when he crashed. He may have refused to say the bar's name in the immediate aftermath of the wreck, but if the establishment can be identified then investigators can check the victim's receipts and other sources of evidence to determine whether he was recklessly over-served.
Here's the thing about that, though: Police rarely if ever take the time to investigate the providers of the alcohol behind DWI's. The focus of their interest is almost always just the driver, and while they might alert the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) if they get a specific business's name they are unlikely to look any further into that location's possible illegal activity. That's why in the event of possible dram shop violations I often recommend that people work with experienced private investigators who know what to look for and how to get it when investigating a bar for over-service. Armed with receipts, witness statements, and video footage, many victims--drivers included--have successfully held bad bars accountable for failing to live up to their obligations to public safety.