Can a Car Accident Victim Sue a Bar or Club for Serving Alcohol to DUI Driver?


  • Author Aaron Crane
  • Published June 2, 2016
  • Word count 774

DUI accidents quite often leave their victims hurt for life. In most cases, even if you do not sustain life-threatening injuries, you will have some degree of physical, property or emotional damage. There are medical bills, car repair bills and lost wages. You have out of pocket expenses not of your own doing. The driver operating their vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs is at fault.

So, what happens when a DUI victim files a claim against a negligent driver? Will you have to forgo any damage claims if unfortunately hit by a motorist without any money? Perhaps, not. You might be able to file a claim against the establishment that served or sold the drinker the alcohol. That is right, you can speak with an attorney about a lawsuit to compel the bar or club to atone for its role in your financial losses.

--- How do these claims work? ---

Theoretically, there are two ways to get recompense from a bar or club that served a DUI motorist. First, you can name them the defendant in a personal injury lawsuit. Second, you can force them to pay the guilty motorist, which will then redound to you in a claim against the guilty driver.

--- Who can be sued? ---

As always, the fact pattern of the case will determine just who you can hold liable for damages. However, there are precedents in which victims have won financial awards from bars, clubs, liquor stores, grocery stores, restaurants and convenience outlets. Any enterprise that serves alcohol to people, who then go out and commit DUIs, can be the subject or partner to a lawsuit.

State law, depending on the jurisdiction, will dictate whether you can sue or attach a business to your claim against a DUI motorist. Few courts want to witness a negligent driver walk away free while you have to deal with the negative results of the accident. Instead, the authorities have created laws that allow you to force the seller to pay up.

--- Dram Shop Laws ---

Winning such a case is not as easy as some might believe. The so-called "dram shop laws," that make it possible for you to take on a commercial enterprise, require lots of evidence. You will need to hire an experienced personal injury attorney to increase the odds of success. With medical costs being extremely high, you should never leave the results to chance.

The negligent business must be proven to have been the proximate cause of the injuries suffered by you. Basically, your case depends on you demonstrating the alcohol vendor created the situation leading to the accident. If the business never served drinks to the DUI driver, then you would never have been injured. This is the type of test the court will use to decide whether to award you monetary damages.

In other words, you must show that a causal connection exists between the injury sustained and the serving of alcohol to the drunk person and then allowing him or her to leave without supervision. Many bars and clubs are aware of dramshop laws, which is why they so often call taxis for obviously inebriated patrons. The act of turning the drinker over to another party can weaken the chain of responsibility and thwart proximate cause arguments.

--- Examples of Facts That Can Help Establish Proximate Cause ---

Following are some facts that, if present, can help you better persuade a court that the club or bar holds responsibility for the accident.

  • Vendor served alcohol to a minor unable to make reasonable decisions for themselves.

  • Vendor should have realized that a patron was well beyond their limit but kept serving them.

  • Vendor served alcohol after municipal closing time.

  • Vendor had no license to serve alcohol.

--- Problems Establishing Proximate Cause ---

As you probably expected, proving the actions of the establishment caused the events leading to the accident is a serious challenge. There are a number of problems that you will face proving your case. A lawyer will want to sit down with you to work on some details, such as:

  • How to show that the vendor knew, or should have known, the patron was a minor.

  • How to show that the vendor knew drinker was beyond their limit.

  • How to show that the vendor saw the irrational behavior of the drinker.

  • How to show that the vendor knew how many drinks the driver consumed.

In many instances, the other party will have legal representation available to prove that you have misunderstood the situation. Furthermore, the DUI driver may be unwilling to help your case by implicating the business.

Attorney Aaron Crane has over 14 years experience in dealing with drunk driver car accidents and personal injuries as a result of other driver's negligence.

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