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Drunk Driving Accidents

Dram Shop Acts

If you were injured by a drunk driver after he or she left a bar, restaurant or other place serving alcohol, you may have a claim against that establishment under a dram shop act. Call today to schedule a consultation with an attorney knowledgeable in personal injury actions involving dram shop liability.

Alcohol vendor liability

Dram shop acts impose liability on commercial vendors who provide alcoholic beverages to visibly intoxicated patrons who then injure innocent parties. Those who sell alcohol for a profit owe a duty to those traveling on public roadways to protect them from foreseeable dangers. Given the number of accidents and fatalities caused by drunk drivers each year, it is foreseeable that an intoxicated person leaving a bar could injure someone in a motor vehicle accident.

To maintain an action under a dram shop act, the plaintiff must typically prove:

  • The vendor furnished alcoholic beverages to someone he or she knew or should have known was noticeably intoxicated.
  • The vendor knew or should have known this noticeably intoxicated person was going to drive a motor vehicle after consuming alcoholic beverages.

The plaintiff must be able to prove that the vendor knew or should have known the person was intoxicated. This knowledge can be inferred from circumstantial evidence. The plaintiff does not have to prove the vendor actually witnessed the drunken behavior. Rather, the intoxicated person's conduct must have been "visible, evident and easily observed." This can include slurred speech, erratic body movements and the smell of alcohol on the breath. The patron must be impaired to the point of incapacity. Merely consuming a couple of drinks may not rise to the level of intoxication under the statute.

Additionally, some state laws provide that the beverage must have been an "intoxicating liquor." The definition of intoxicating liquor may require the drink to have included hard alcohol or a certain percentage of alcohol before it will qualify under the act, which may exclude beer.

Eligible parties

Dram shop acts provide relief for persons who suffered injury to themselves, their property or to their means of support — if the breadwinner is no longer able to work, for example. Parties who may bring dram shop suits include innocent parties who were injured, their estate and their families. The families of the intoxicated driver also can bring dram shop claims.

The intoxicated person or his or her estate cannot sue the vendor for damages under dram shop acts.

Contact a drunk driving accident attorney

Call today to schedule a consultation with a lawyer familiar with personal injury actions involving dram shop liability.

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