What Are Dram Shop Laws?

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By Andrew Lu on March 18, 2013 7:41 AM

Most states have some sort of dram shop law that allows victims of drunken driving accidents to hold a drinking establishment responsible for their injuries.

The basis for dram shop laws is that bars should bear some responsibility when they knowingly serve alcohol to someone obviously intoxicated, and then send that person on his way.

As a result, injury victims or their family members may be able to seek monetary damages against these establishments in personal injury lawsuits.

A DUI accident victim may see some justice when the perpetrator receives criminal penalties for drunken driving. However, that may be little solace when the victim faces mounting hospital bills or suffers other monetary harm as a result of the accident.

This unfairness is only exacerbated as individual DUI defendants often have few assets with which they can compensate the victim. However, bars and businesses that serve alcohol to the intoxicated perpetrator typically have much deeper pockets and have the ability to pay up.

What Must Be Proved?

Dram shop laws are state laws, and the exact elements needed to establish the claim will vary from state to state. However, there are some common elements a plaintiff will typically have to establish, such as:

  • Proof of sale of alcohol to the patron;

  • Proof that the business was aware, or should have been aware, that the patron was intoxicated;

  • Injuries sustained by the patron;

  • Proximate cause between the alcohol sale and intoxication; and

  • Proof that intoxication played a role in the accident.

The most difficult thing to prove in holding a bar responsible for your injuries may be showing that the bar staff knew (or should have known) that the perpetrator was drunk when they sold him alcohol.

If you have a question about a personal injury relating to drunken driving, you may want to talk to a personal injury attorney to learn more about your options.

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