Under dram shop law, when bars, restaurants, nightclubs or other establishments serve alcohol to someone who is visibly intoxicated, they may be liable for any damages the intoxicated person might cause. Good car accident lawyers are well-versed in the nuances of all types of dram shop claims and can help you understand how you may be able to recover compensation if you have been injured or have lost a loved one in a drunk driving crash.
Types of Dram Shop Cases
While the majority of dram shop cases involve drunk driving accidents, a business owner may be liable if an intoxicated person assaults someone or injures himself/herself after leaving an establishment as well.
Most dram shop cases are third-party claims, which means that the victim of the intoxicated person’s actions is the one suing the establishment. In first-party dram shop claims, the patron who was drunk is the one bringing a claim against a bar or restaurant. Unless a first-party claim involves a minor, juries are usually hesitant to award damages to the person who was intoxicated when he/she was injured.
Social Host Liability
Similar to dram shop laws, social host liability laws allow injured victims to sue the host of a private function if someone who became intoxicated there causes injury or death. In many states, social host liability only applies when a host serves alcohol or drugs to a minor.
Proving Negligence in Dram Shop Claims
To recover compensation in most personal injury claims, a plaintiff must prove that the at-fault party was negligent. An accident injury lawyer may be able to demonstrate negligence by using specific elements of a dram shop statute, including:
- The person serving alcohol knew or should have known that the patron was intoxicated
- The bartender or server did not request proof of age
- An establishment served a patron after closing time
- A certain amount of alcohol was served during the time a patron was there that would have reasonably resulted in intoxication
Bartenders, servers, managers, and establishment owners have a legal obligation to ensure that they do not enable intoxicated people to continue drinking, but proving negligence in dram shop claims is challenging.
Damages in Dram Shop Claims
In some states, an injured victim or the loved ones of someone who was killed in an accident may be entitled to additional damages if they can prove that the defendant acted recklessly. In other states, there are caps on the amount of damages that may be recovered in dram shop claims. Depending on the circumstances, types of damages you may recover include:
- Medical bills
- Lost wages
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of companionship and consortium
- Wrongful death damages
Contact an Attorney as Soon as Possible if You Are Considering a Dram Shop Claim
If you believe you have a viable dram shop claim, it is important to act fast. A number of states require you to give notice of your intention to bring a dram shop claim against an establishment within a certain period of time. In some cases, this time frame may only be 60 days from the date of an accident or injury.