A Wee Dram to Ward Off the Winter Chill

The term dram is a Scottish euphemism for a shot of whisky. Ergo, dram shop laws apply to businesses which serve alcohol.

You have probably heard at least one story about a bar getting sued after a patron injured or killed someone in a drunk driving accident, and you may be wondering how that works and what it means to you.

Dram shop laws hold businesses that serve or sell alcohol responsible for the actions of their customers. Dram shop laws vary from state-to-state, and a few states protect businesses from liability altogether. Dram shop laws typically apply to a wide range of accidents and injuries caused by intoxicated persons, not just drunk driving accidents.

Serving Alcohol Illegally

In many states, dram shop liability only applies if the establishment sold or served alcohol illegally. That includes providing alcohol to a minor, meaning someone who is under the legal drinking age, or to someone who was already visibly intoxicated. A few states have more unusual laws and include liability for illegal serving or selling such as serving someone who is known to be habitually intoxicated or selling alcohol in a dry county.

Some states limit this liability to cases where alcohol was served to a minor, and do not hold businesses responsible for over-serving adults.

What if the Drunk Person is Injured or Killed?

In some states, dram shop liability even protects patrons who get drunk and then get into an accident. A drunk driver may be allowed to sue for his or her own injuries. Some states that bar drunk drivers from recovering compensation for their injuries still allow families to sue for the wrongful death of a loved one who was over-served and allowed to drive home from a bar or restaurant.

What about Private Parties?

Dram shop laws apply to businesses. Social host liability is the equivalent that applies to individuals. Again, each state is different. Some states place a large amount of responsibility on social hosts while others do not. And, the dram shop laws in your state are not an accurate predictor of social host liability.

To learn more about dram shop laws and social host liability in your state, please contact AccidentAttorneys.org to be connected with an experienced accident attorney in your area.

Avatar About Sandra Dalton

With a background as a paralegal, focusing on criminal defense and civil rights, Sandra Dalton launched her freelance writing career in 2000 with a weekly column on Freedom for Suite 101 and pro bono projects for individuals and organizations supporting causes close to her heart. One of her first projects was for the Police Compliant Center writing about police misconduct. Sandra’s legal writing quickly expanded to include personal injury, animal welfare, criminal defense, disability discrimination, family law and much more.