Accidents involving alcohol are otherwise known as Dram Shop Actions.
Who are the potential defendants in a Dram Shop Action?
The Dram Shop Act applies to all persons licensed to sell alcoholic beverages or to whom a permit to sell same has been issued by the Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control. These include bars, taverns, restaurants and their employees as well as any and all others licensed to sell alcoholic beverages.
How can the potential defendants be held liable in accidents involving alcohol?
Any person or business that negligently sells a container of alcohol to a visibly intoxicated person may be held liable under the Dram Shop Act for potential injuries.
What is negligence under the Dram Shop Act?
Negligence exists when either service is provided to a visibly intoxicated person; or when a minor is served, where it is known, or reasonably should be known, that the person is a minor.
Who are potential claimants in alcohol related accidents?
The intoxicated person who is served while he/she is visibly intoxicated as well as innocent third parties are potential claimants. For example, if you are driving in an automobile and are struck by an intoxicated individual who was negligently served alcoholic beverages, you are a potential claimant.
What are the conditions for recovery in an accident involving alcohol?
An individual, claimant, who has suffered personal injury or property damage resulting from the negligent service of alcoholic beverages, must demonstrate the following:
- The injury or damages were caused by the negligent service of alcoholic beverages, or stated differently, but/for the negligent service of alcohol the injury or damages would not have occurred; and
- The injury or damages were a foreseeable consequence of the negligent service of alcohol.
What are the most common types of incidents which cause damages or injuries when alcohol is involved?
The most common types of incidents involving alcohol are auto accidents, fall down accidents and fights. It is important to note that in regards to fights, an assault by a belligerent drunk is a foreseeable consequence of serving alcohol.
May I be held liable for my own injuries if I am served excess alcohol and then become injured?
When the individual to whom excess alcohol was served is injured, that person may share some of the responsibility for his/her own injuries. If a jury determines that the individual was served after he/she became visibly intoxicated, the individual is entitled to a presumption that he/she lacked the capacity to evaluate the ensuing risk.
Can I still bring a claim if I am injured in an auto accident where the driver of the vehicle I was a passenger in was legally intoxicated?
Yes. However, the actions of the claimant are generally considered in every case to determine if the claimant bears any responsibility for his/her injuries. Therefore, if you get into a vehicle with someone who you know is drunk you may be held responsible either in whole or in part.
What if I am hosting a party at my residence, may I be held liable if my guest becomes injured or injures someone else?
A social host is liable for injuries that result from furnishing alcohol in a manner which creates a foreseeable risk or likelihood of harm to others.
Are there any factors that may limit my liability as a social host?
The social host’s actions must be affirmative or active. This means the social host must do something affirmative to facilitate or encourage the consumption of alcohol, and be in a position to control its use and see the condition of the guest.
Additionally, the injury-producing incident must be something reasonably foreseeable to arise as a result of the alcohol. For example, the social host is not liable where injury and damage occur as a result of a fire caused by a cigarette left smoldering after an intoxicated guest arrived home.
Can an employer be held liable in an accident involving alcohol?
When liability is based upon the furnishing of alcohol, courts have typically ruled that an employer will not be held liable for furnishing alcohol to an able-bodied person. If injury occurs later, the voluntary consumption and not the furnishing of alcoholic beverages is usually determined to be the cause of the injury and damages.
Please note that employers may be held liable if the intoxication arises in the course and scope of the employment. Examples include, but are not limited to; business lunches, entertaining clients, picnics and holiday celebrations.
May I be held liable if I lend my car to someone who is later involved in an accident involving alcohol?
A person who lends an automobile to an individual he/she knows or reasonably should know to be intoxicated, may be liable for injuries caused by the negligent operation of the vehicle. Please note that the intoxicated person as well as any innocent third parties are the potential claimants in this situation.