As the year comes to a close, much is likely on your mind. For many, this is how they will spend their holiday season. The winter holidays give a reason to celebrate with loved ones and colleagues, causing calendars to quickly fill with public gatherings.
While good conversations and festive environments are likely, there is something else that is very commonplace with these gatherings. Alcohol is often served, and whether it is an open bar or not, there are various levels of responsibility that come into play when and if a patron gets in an accident after driving from the establishment where they consumed alcoholic beverages.
Understanding dram shop laws
The basic premise of dram shop laws is to extend liability and responsibility to those serving or providing alcohol to the motorist that caused an accident. This means that the victims of a drunk driving accident or the loved ones of a deceased victim have the right to hold a bar, restaurant or alcohol retailer accountable for the death, injuries or damages caused by the drunk driver.
Thus, in addition to holding the driver responsible for the losses and damages suffered in a drunk driving crash, a civil suit could place liability on businesses that sold the alcohol to the drunk driver. However, this liability is not automatic. In fact, it can be challenging to prove fault and liability in these matters.
The reason why it can be challenging to prove fault in a dram shop case is because it seeks to understand and prove some rather complex questions. For instance, it seeks whether the seller of the alcohol, be it a bartender, waitress or clerk, should have known whether the patron was already intoxicated, has a low tolerance for alcohol or plans to drive a vehicle.
Often, four elements need to be proven when seeking to impose liability under dram shop. This includes the proof of alcohol sale to the intoxicated patron, injuries were suffered in the accident, there was a proximate cause between the alcohol sale and the intoxication of the patron and the intoxication of the patron was at least one cause of the damages suffered.
This is often when the obvious intoxication test is applied. This test seeks to establish whether the retailer knew or should have known the patron was intoxicated to such a level that consuming more alcohol would cause danger to that person or others.
Asserting dram shop liability might be difficult; however, it is not an impossible liability to assert following a drunk driving accident. Thus, those impacted should understand their rights and options, helping them understand if this applies to their matter.