An eating or drinking establishment, such as a bar or restaurant, can be held responsible for damages caused by patrons who drink too much alcohol at the establishment and go on to cause a drunk driving wreck. This is due to Georgia’s dram shop liability laws. Dram shop laws are known as imputed liability laws, which means that someone can be held responsible for the actions of another person.
The thought behind this law is that restaurants and other establishments that serve alcohol to patrons have a responsibility to ensure that people who will be driving home are not over-served. If a bar continues to serve alcoholic beverages to someone who is visibly intoxicated, and that person goes on to cause a drunk driving accident, a negligence claim can be brought against the bar.
To bring a successful negligence claim against a bar or restaurant for serving alcohol irresponsibly, several things must be true:
1) The server must have known, or should have known, that the person they were serving alcohol to was too intoxicated to be served any longer. A server must be aware of a patron’s behavior, as people tend to give obvious visual cues when they have had too much to drink to consume alcohol responsibly any longer. Often times witness statements from other patrons at the bar that the drunk driver was visibly intoxicated and continued to be served alcohol can be of great importance to a dram shop claim.
2) The server must have known the patron intended to drive after leaving the establishment. If a patron is drinking heavily and the bartender or waiter knew he or she drove to the establishment, the server has to assume the patron will also be driving home, unless other arrangements for transportation are made.
3) The alcohol had to be the reason for the accident. This means that the at-fault party’s drunk driving was the reason the collision occurred, and the crash was not the fault of the other person involved in the collision.
4) If an individual under the legal drinking age of 21 is served any alcohol at all, the bar or restaurant is responsible for any damages caused. Establishments that sell alcohol have a responsibility to make sure anyone drinking alcohol there is doing so legally.
It is not just bars and restaurants that fall under imputed liability laws. These laws apply to people serving alcohol from home as well. If someone has a party and knowingly over-serves an intoxicated person who is then involved in a crash, a claim can be made against the homeowner who hosted the party. This also applies to under-aged parties thrown by teenagers where alcohol is served. Parents can be held responsible since any alcohol consumption by those under 21 is illegal.
Due to the specific conditions that must be met to pursue a successful dram shop claim, it is important that you speak with an experienced Georgia personal injury attorney right away if you think the drunk driver who hit you or your family member may have been negligently over-served. Drunk driving accidents can cause serious injury and death, and you may pursue compensation if the crash was the unfortunate result of an irresponsible server at a bar or restaurant.
If you have questions that you’d like to ask a Georgia personal injury attorney today, give Ty a call at 912-508-4711 in Savannah or 770-948-5454 in Atlanta.