Tremont Sheldon Robinson Mahoney P.C.

Victims injured by drunk driver can hold serving bar responsible

Everyone knows that when a driver chooses to get behind the wheel of his or her vehicle after having too much to drink, it is a mistake. However, these things still happen despite the fact that drunk driving is a 100 percent preventable decision. Obviously, a large percentage of fault lies with the intoxicated driver following an accident. However, did you know that if the intoxicated driver that caused a car accident was over served at a bar or restaurant, that establishment could share a portion of the liability?

The basis for the over serving restaurant liability lies in laws centuries old called dram shop laws. These laws, which were named after 18th Century England establishments that sold gin by the spoonful, called a "dram", are enforced through civil lawsuits. Victims of a drunk driving crash and their loved ones are able to sue alcohol vendors or retailers for monetary damages if they were injured. Today, dram shop laws are commonplace in many states and allow injured victims to collect compensation if a drunk driver was over served prior to the accident.

Dram shop laws vary from state to state, but many use a test of 'obvious intoxication' to prove liability of such shop owners and employees. The obvious intoxication test is determined by assessing whether a retailer knew or should have known that the patron they were serving was so intoxicated that more alcohol would cause danger to him or herself or to others.

Since over-intoxication has many physical manifestations, such as slurred speech or stumbling while walking, these could have been the clues serving bars should look for in order to protect themselves and other from over-intoxicated patrons. If proven, the over serving bar could be held partially responsible for a drunk driving accident that caused victims harm.

Many people do not realize that businesses have a responsibility to themselves and others when serving alcohol to patrons. The reality is that over-serving is a factor in many drunk driving car accident claims. If over serving is suspected in a car accident injury case, conduct a full investigation. There might be more liable parties than just the drunk driver.

Source:, "Dram Shop Laws," Accessed Jan. 4, 2016

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