Dram Shop Liability

It’s well-known that a drunk driver can be held legally liable for the injury or death of another person. You might not be aware, however, that in most states, dram shop laws allow victims and their families to hold bars and alcohol retailers accountable for the actions of the patrons they serve.

What Is Dram Shop Liability?

Dram shop laws are named after bars and taverns in 18th Century England that sold small quantities, or drams, of liquors to patrons. These laws allow the victims of drunk driving accidents, physical altercations, and other harmful acts to hold alcohol vendors and retailers accountable for the actions of the intoxicated individual.

In essence, dram shop liability laws extend personal injury and wrongful death responsibility to the bars, taverns, clubs, restaurants, and liquor stores that serve alcohol to minors and people who are visibly intoxicated. If the patron causes an accident that injures a third party, the establishment may also be legally at fault for the damages.

What Is the Legal Standard in Dram Shop Cases?

In a dram shop lawsuit, the plaintiff must prove that the establishment was negligent. Generally, that involves demonstrating that the business either served alcohol to an individual who was under the legal drinking age, or to a person who was visibly intoxicated.

If the plaintiff can prove at least one of these requirements, and that it directly contributed to their injury, they could receive compensation. Liability may be distributed between multiple parties. For example, a jury may find that both the tavern and the drunk driver were 50% at fault, in which case each party would be responsible for splitting the damages.

How Do Dram Shop Laws Vary by State?

Every state has its own laws that dictate how much or how little a business can be held legally liable for the actions of a drunk driver. Some notable variations include:

  • Burden of Proof: The plaintiff typically has to demonstrate that the person who served the alcohol knew or should have known that the patron was drunk or under the legal drinking age. Other factors, such as serving a customer past closing time, may establish negligence in some states.
  • Liability: In some states, dram shops are only liable if the person who caused the crash was under the legal drinking age (21).
  • Notice Requirements: There may be strict requirements for when a person can bring forth a claim. In some states, the victim has as little as 60 days to give formal written notice to the bar that he or she intends to file a claim.

Because laws vary by state and the time to file a claim may be limited, it’s important that you contact a dram shop attorney as soon as possible to discuss the details of your case.

Contact a Dram Shop Attorney

If a dram shop provided alcohol to an individual who later harmed you or a loved one, the business may be legally liable for your injuries. The best way to find out is to contact a dram shop lawyer at Morgan & Morgan.

For more than 30 years, our attorneys have fought on behalf of injury victims to protect their rights and secure their financial futures. Over that time, we have won more than $7 billion for our clients.

Find out what we can do for you by scheduling a free case evaluation. It costs nothing to get started, and we get paid only if you win. Contact us today.


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