When you’ve been injured by a driver who drank and drove, it’s not just the driver who is liable. In some cases, the bar that served a driver too much alcohol before turning them loose on the roads is also liable for your injuries. This is called “dram shop liability,” named for an old-fashioned term for bars.
Dram shop liability is a common law principle that holds establishments that serve alcohol liable for the damages caused by drunk patrons after they leave the establishment. This includes situations where someone leaves the bar drunk and gets into a car accident and kills a family member of someone else. In those situations, the family of the person who was injured or killed may sue not only the actual drunk driver, but also the bar that served them excessive alcohol. Dram shop liability in Pennsylvania requires showing that the bar was aware that the person was intoxicated and continued serving alcohol beyond the legal limit. This is fact specific injury and is generally only attachable against the bar, not against the bar’s insurance.
Determining whether the bar knew the person was intoxicated can be difficult, but surveillance footage, witnesses, and the person’s own testimony can contribute to proving the case. Bars are governed by the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board, and there are regulations about when they can serve alcohol. When a customer is visibly inebriated, that person should not be served any more alcohol.
One of the reasons that insurance does not typically cover these situations is because it is considered an intentional tort. That means that the actions taken by the bar were reckless or intentional, rather than merely negligent.
It’s not just bars that are covered, by the way. Hotels, restaurants, and any other establishments that serve alcohol can be liable under these rules.
If you or a loved one has been in a car accident you should consult with an attorney about whether bringing a dram shop action will make the case stronger or weaker. By bringing a dram shop issue into the mix, you risk the possibility that certain insurances will not kick in, which are usually your surest source of recovery in an injury case. Contact the personal injury attorneys at Cornerstone Law Firm for a free consultation about your injury.