The phrase “dram shop law” gets its name from the dram unit of measurement (which is less than a teaspoon). Alcohol was sold by the dram in shops back in 18th century England. Today, dram shop laws are statutes that allow certain victims injured in alcohol-related car accidents to win recovery. These are for injuries caused by people who have been served too much alcohol at bars or other establishments. Not all dram shop cases actually involve the victims being at these establishments. If you or a loved one have been hurt by someone who was intoxicated, contact a Georgia personal injury attorney.
Here is how Georgia’s dram shop law works to help the victim in a liability claim. The consumption of alcohol, rather than the sale of such, must be the actual cause of the injury. Injury includes harm to the person as well as property damage and even death. The law does not hold a party responsible for merely selling or furnishing the alcohol. Liability attaches where alcohol is sold, furnished, or served to:
- A minor under the age of 21; or
- A person of “noticeable intoxication”
It is typically the second scenario where the law comes into play. Usually a person will be clearly drunk and over his or her personal limit for alcohol consumption. The responsible party continues to serve the patron, knowing he or she will soon be driving. In this scenario, the party responsible for selling or serving the alcohol will be responsible for resulting accidents and injuries.
Bar and restaurant owners may claim there was no way they could have known the degree of a person’s intoxication. But this does not excuse their actions. A skilled personal injury lawyer will be able to get evidence to prove the drunkenness of the person in question. This may include bar tabs and receipts to show exactly how much alcohol was served. If the person who caused the accident had a reputation of drinking too much, this could be used as well. Even social media evidence such as pictures and status updates can be used. The key is to show the person was beyond his or her limit and kept being served anyway.
It is also important to note that the intoxicated person will share responsibility for the injuries caused by their actions. But not every person who actually gets into an accident has insurance or assets to cover damages. Dram shop liability gives the victim and his or her family additional ways to seek compensation.
Dram shop laws, as mentioned above, also prevent the sale of alcohol to minors under the age of 21. We all know that minors often use fake identifications to obtain alcohol. But again, it is up to the employees of establishments that sell alcohol to ensure all such IDs are valid. This is not an excuse that will allow the business to escape liability.
Georgia’s dram shop law also applies to persons who host social gatherings where alcohol is served or available. The same rules apply when someone is served alcohol, then leaves and causes injuries (or worse) because of drunk driving. In this situation, the host would be partially liable. The determining factor is whether the host knew the person planned to drive. To prevent liability, the host must take appropriate precautions such as taking the car keys until the person is sober. The host can also arrange for another driver to be in charge. The host is likely not responsible if he or she took reasonable measures such as these to avoid an accident.
Dram shop lawsuits can involve claims against bars, nightclubs, sport arenas, restaurants, liquor stores, convenience stores and commercial vendors. Social host lawsuits involve homeowners, clubs, fraternities, employers, and other functions where alcohol is served on a gratuitous basis.
When Parties Act Irresponsibly, We Will Hold Them Accountable
Bar owners, restaurants, and individuals must exercise good judgment in selling or serving alcoholic beverages. Once an individual displays signs of intoxication, he or she should be prohibited from drinking more alcohol. Identifications must also be verified to avoid minors obtaining alcohol. When someone neglects these duties, people can be hurt and even killed. Rely on the skilled litigators of Schneider Hammers to hold the responsible parties accountable for their actions.