Injury type: Assaults, DUIs, Alcohol-related crimes
Causes: Parties responsible for serving alcohol to intoxicated persons
Related topics: Traumatic Brain Injury, Automobile Accidents
Liquor liability laws describe circumstances when a person is financially liable for serving an alcoholic beverage to a visibly intoxicated person. The laws are also known as dram shop laws, referring to the 18th-century British practice of selling a dram (spoonful) of gin. Currently, liability laws vary by state. Some states hold a bar owner and bartender responsible for the harm caused by serving a drink to an intoxicated person. Liability is often part of a DUI case and could be assigned to restaurants, liquor stores, clubs and private events like home parties. That party could be liable if the intoxicated person commits a crime. Liability laws also apply to selling liquor without a license, selling it to minors and selling it after hours.
Liquor Liability Laws May Apply To Assaults; Automobile Accidents
The statistics are sobering: one American dies in an alcohol-related car crash every 30 minutes and drunk driving plays a role in over 40 percent of this nation’s traffic deaths. In addition, alcohol is intimately connected with assault cases, with alcohol abuse a factor in over two-thirds of partner abuse situations and about 40 percent of sexual assault convictions. While public health advocates have made a huge push to educate Americans about the secondary dangers of alcohol abuse, policymakers have also responded with liquor liability (sometimes called “dram shop”) laws that put a burden on business owners who sell liquor to an obviously intoxicated person.
Liquor Liability and Dram Shop Laws and Assault
Bars and other drinking establishments are required to cut off an obviously intoxicated person from further alcohol purchases once the person has displayed public intoxication. Hence, these establishments may carry the liability if a person who got drunk at their bar then assaults another person. In this case, the illegal sale of alcohol would place culpability for the violent crime on the restaurant or bar in addition to the perpetrator. Both could be sued in a state with a strict liquor liability or dram shop law. In addition, if the liquor sale took place after hours, to a minor, or without a license, the business who sold liquor to the perpetrator could be liable for damages suffered in an intoxicated assault even if the person was not visibly intoxicated at the time of purchase.
Liquor Liability and Dram Shop Laws and Automobile Accidents
If a bar or restaurant has failed to cut off an obviously intoxicated person who subsequently is involved in a car crash, they may carry financial and legal liability to the victim of the crash. This liability can exist even if the accident did not physically injure or kill its driver or passengers. Even if the driver was not visibly drunk at the time of alcohol purchase, the store, bar or restaurant could be responsible for damages incurred in the accident if it sold liquor without a license, sold it to a minor, or sold it after hours.
Safe Harbor Provisions May Impact Liquor Liability Cases
While most liquor liability laws are harsh, there may exist a “safe harbor” provision that lightens the burden placed on third parties through liquor liability litigation. “Safe harbor” provisions allow the actions of an employee to be considered on their own and not attributed to an employer who takes preventive measures such as requiring its employees to undergo seller training programs, the employee in question actually attends such training, and the employer does not encourage its employee to violate liquor laws.
Do You Have a Liquor Liability Claim?
If you have suffered physical or financial harm due to an accident, assault, or other incident involving an intoxicated person, you may be able to sue under liquor liability laws in your state. Contact an experienced liquor liability attorney to find out more about your state’s laws, applicable statutes of limitations, and potential monetary damages and awards. Your liquor liability lawyer will help you evaluate your potential claim, file your law suit and get the compensation you deserve.
Social Hosts Not Safe from Liquor Liability Laws
But few are aware of the so-called “social host” liability – the legal responsibilities of social hosts who serve their guests alcohol. Not all states recognize social host liability, but those that do consider the obligations of a social host to be serious, especially in cases which involve drunk driving. The size of the gathering is inconsequential – from a single guest to a guest list of thousands, the social host can carry a hefty financial burden under social host liability.