When someone drives drunk and causes a crash, victims can file a lawsuit for their damages. And if the other driver was issued a DUI or DWI by the responding police officer, it will be much easier for victims and their attorneys to prove the other driver was negligent. After all, the dangers of drunk driving are well known, and the driver knowingly decided to drive after consuming alcohol. However, what is not as obvious is that the drunk driver may not be the only person liable for the victim’s injuries.
In some cases, businesses that serve alcohol, such as bars and restaurants, as well as the employees who served the alcohol, can also be held liable for accidents caused by drunk drivers. These are called “dram shop” laws. The term is derived from the Scottish word for a measure of whiskey, which was called a dram.
What Are Georgia’s Dram Shop Laws?
According to Georgia Code section 51-1-40, a business that sells alcohol can be held liable for injuries caused by overserving a customer alcohol if:
- The server “willfully, knowingly, and unlawfully” serves alcohol to someone younger than 21 OR someone already intoxicated
- The server knows that the minor or intoxicated person plans to drive a vehicle before they sober up.
Why Aren’t There More Lawsuits Against Bars?
Someone is killed in a drunk driving accident every 50 minutes in the U.S. So, knowing that bars can be held liable for drunk drivers, and how often drunk driving crashes occur, you may be wondering why lawsuits against bars and restaurants that serve alcohol aren’t more common.
The reason is because is civil lawsuits, the burden of proof is on the plaintiff ( the injured person). The bar or liquor store (or dram shop) does not have to identify itself or prove they acted irresponsibly until the victim has proven that it is “more likely than not” that the bar or its employees were at fault. In other words, the injured person needs to prove that the person or business that provided the alcohol knew of a risk, and/or created that risk, and did nothing to stop the at-fault person from driving.
And in these cases, not only is the burden of proof high, sometimes it is even difficult to learn where the defendant has been before the crash because of pending criminal charges. Generally, a lawsuit is required to learn many of the facts necessary to prove the case, and sometimes, the responsibility of the bar or store does not become known until after the driver has been questioned.
By hiring a lawyer experienced with handling crashes caused by drunk drivers, you can increase your likelihood of winning your case against the alcohol provider. Getting in touch with a lawyer early will make it easier to collect evidence such as security camera footage, witness statements, and even credit card statements from the establishment that served the alcohol showing how much the drunk driver consumed. All of these can help prove the obvious level of intoxication of the driver before the crash.
Can Drunk Drivers Sue the Bar for Overserving Them?
Drunk drivers can also be injured in car crashes they cause, and people who are already drunk tend to have poor judgement (for example, in knowing when to stop drinking). This leads some people to wonder if it is possible for a drunk driver to sue the bar for overserving them if they were noticeably drunk at the time they were served.
This type of case is called a first-party dram shop case. However, they are not allowed in Georgia. Georgia law does not allow “the consumer of any alcoholic beverage to recover from the provider of such alcoholic beverage for injuries or damages suffered by the consumer.” That is because most courts say that individuals are responsible for their own choices, including how much to drink. However, some states allow exceptions when the intoxicated person who was injured was a minor, although this type of case is still difficult to win. We always recommend consulting a lawyer if your teenager was injured because they were sold alcohol to learn what your options forward may be.
Do Dram Shop Laws Only Apply to Bars?
No, dram shop laws apply to any business that sells alcohol. So this includes not only bars and restaurants, but concert venues, nightclubs, and even liquor stores or convenience stores and grocery stores that sell alcohol.
Were You Injured by a Drunk Driver? Call Us Today.
At the Law Offices of Gary Bruce, we are very familiar with the damage that drunk driving causes, because we see countless victims of drunk driving crashes every year. If you or someone you love was hurt or killed by a drunk driver, you deserve compensation for your pain and suffering, as well as the ways the crash affected your household income, either through the loss of a loved one or the inability to work while recovering.
Contact our team today to learn how we can help you pursue the money you are owed after this nightmarish situation.