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Dram Shop Liability: Can You Hold a Bar Liable for a Drunk Driving Accident?

Dram Shop Liability

When a drunk driving accident occurs, the intoxicated driver whose blood alcohol concentration (B.A.C.) exceeded the legal driving limit is not the only party that can be held liable for the crash. In many cases, the bar or establishment that served alcohol to the drunk motorist could also bear responsibility for the accident.

Whether or not you can sue a bar or another establishment for providing alcohol to a drunk driver depends on state law and the circumstances of your case. At Howe.Law, our skilled drunk driving accident lawyers, handle dram shop liability claims in Georgia, Tennessee, and Mississippi.

Schedule a free case evaluation to discuss dram shop liability in your D.U.I. accident by calling 844-876-4357.

What is Dram Shop Liability?

A drunk driving accident victim may be able to sue a bar, restaurant, or another establishment that sold or served alcohol to the impaired motorist under the legal theory of “dram shop law.” Therefore, it is vital to contact a knowledgeable attorney to investigate your drunk driving accident and determine how and where the intoxicated motorist obtained alcohol before the crash.

Aside from criminal charges for driving under the influence, a drunk motorist may face civil liability for causing a car accident due to being intoxicated at the time of the crash. In addition, a victim of a drunk driving accident may also be able to pursue a civil claim against the person or business that served alcohol to the impaired driver.

The vast majority of states, including Georgia, Tennessee, and Mississippi, have different dram shop laws.

What is the Dram Shop Law in Georgia?

Georgia’s dram shop law is codified in O.C.G.A. § 51-1-40, which says that a person or entity that sells, furnishes, or serves alcohol to a person who ends up causing someone else’s injury or death can be held liable for the victim’s damages and losses.

Dram shop liability is applicable when:

  1. The person or entity that sold or served alcohol to a person under the age of 21 or someone who is in a state of noticeable intoxication; and
  2. The person or entity that sold or served alcohol was aware that the person would be driving a motor vehicle soon.

Georgia’s dram shop law also allows persons injured in drunk driving accidents to sue social hosts. The requirements for pursuing a dram shop liability claim against a social host and alcohol vendor (seller) are the same.

What is the Dram Shop Law in Tennessee?

In Tennessee, a drunk driving accident victim can recover damages from the vendor that sold or furnished alcohol to the drunk driver who caused the crash. Under T.C.A. § 57-10-102, you can pursue a dram shop liability claim against the vendor if they:

  1. Sold/furnished an alcoholic drink to a person who was visibly intoxicated; or
  2. Sold/furnished an alcoholic beverage to a person known to be under the age of 21.

To recover damages from the alcohol vendor that sold or furnished an alcoholic beverage to a driver who went on to cause a drunk driving accident in Tennessee, the injured victim must prove that the driver’s consumption of alcohol was the direct cause of their injury.

A victim of a drunk driving accident cannot use the dram shop liability statute if they cannot prove that:

  • The driver was under the age of 21 or visibly intoxicated when the alcoholic drink was sold or furnished by the establishment; or
  • Their injury occurred as the direct result of the sale of an alcoholic beverage.

While social hosts are generally exempt from Tennessee’s dram shop law due to the wording in the statute, those who host private parties and provide alcoholic drinks to people who attend the party can be held responsible for resulting injuries as long as the following criteria are met:

  1. The existence of a special relationship between the drunk motorist and the person who provided the alcoholic drink;
  2. The drunk driver was a minor;
  3. The social host allowed the underage individual to become impaired by alcohol; and
  4. The social host failed to interfere with the underage driver’s attempt to operate a motor vehicle after consuming alcohol.

Making a dram shop liability claim is a complex issue after a car accident caused by a drunk driver in Tennessee. That is why it is vital to consult with a knowledgeable attorney to determine whether or not you can sue an establishment that sold or provided alcohol to the drunk motorist who caused your injuries.

What is the Dram Shop Law in Mississippi?

Mississippi’s dram shop liability statute is different from dram shop liability laws in other states. Under Miss. Code § 67-3-73, an alcohol-selling establishment can be held accountable for accidents caused by a drunk motorist if the establishment:

  • Forced the motorist to drink;
  • Misrepresented the actual amount of alcohol in a beverage; or
  • Provided alcohol to an individual who was already visually impaired.

Mississippi law requires establishments to provide alcohol to visitors and customers responsibly, which is why serving a visually impaired person may make the establishment liable for any resulting damages and losses caused by the person.

As for social hosts, Mississippi law imposes limited dram shop liability on those who hold private parties. For example, a social host can be held responsible for a drunk driving accident if the host provided alcohol to a minor who went on to cause the crash. At the same time, a social host cannot be held liable for damages caused by adults who became intoxicated at the host’s private party, even if the adult was visibly impaired at the party.

You Need to Prove Proximate Causation and Damages

When seeking compensation after a drunk driving accident, you need to demonstrate clear and convincing evidence of:

  • proximate causation; and
  • your economic and non-economic damages suffered due to the recklessness or negligence on the part of the drunk driver and/or the establishment that sold or served alcohol to that driver.

In other words, you need to prove that the drunk driver’s operation of a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol was the proximate cause of your injury. Doing so can be complicated without the legal help of a knowledgeable attorney. A skilled lawyer will help you establish a link between your injury, and the establishment served alcohol to a minor or visibly intoxicated person.

In addition to proving proximate causation, you need to prove that you suffered actual damages or losses due to the defendant’s negligence or recklessness. For example, depending on state law, you may be able to hold a vendor or social host liable for your injury if you can prove that you experienced damages, such as medical expenses and lost wages, as a result of the driver’s impaired driving.

Aside from medical expenses and lost wages, you may be able to seek compensation for your other damages, both economic and non-economic. Consult with an attorney to evaluate your case and determine what damages are recoverable in your drunk driving accident.

What Damages Can You Seek After a Drunk Driving Accident?

The actual damages that you can seek following your D.U.I. accident depend on your state, statutory limitations, and the circumstances of your crash. Many victims of drunk driving accidents can file a civil lawsuit against both the impaired motorist who caused the collision and the establishment that sold or provided alcohol to the motorist.

Some of the most common damages that may be awarded to victims of drunk driving accidents include:

  • Medical bills
  • Loss of income
  • Pain and suffering
  • Emotional distress
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Property damage

Suppose your loved one died in a D.U.I. accident. In that case, you might be entitled to compensation for your funeral and burial costs, loss of consortium, loss of partnership and support, and many other damages. When seeking a personal injury or wrongful death claim after a drunk driving crash, you must be able to prove the extent of your damages to seek fair and full compensation from the defendant(s).

An experienced attorney can help you strengthen your claim to maximize your recoverable damages after a drunk driving accident in Tennessee, Georgia, or Mississippi.

Can You Recover Punitive Damages After a Drunk Driving Accident?

Punitive damages are not available in all car accidents in Georgia, Tennessee, and Mississippi. In addition, these damages, which are intended to punish the defendant for their outrageous or particularly egregious behavior, are rarely available in personal injury cases.

However, when a drunk motorist causes a car crash, the injured party is likely to be awarded punitive damages. The requirements for bringing a punitive damages claim depends on where you live:

  • Georgia. Punitive damages are available when the defendant engaged in malicious, oppressive, wanton, willful, or fraudulent conduct (O.C.G.A. § 51-12-5.1).
  • Tennessee. A claimant may be able to recover punitive damages when they were injured due to the defendant’s intentional, reckless, or malicious conduct (T.C.A. § 29-39-104).
  • Mississippi. A plaintiff can seek punitive damages when they can prove that the defendant’s conduct amounted to willfulness, fraud, recklessness, gross negligence, malice, or wanton disregard for the safety of others (Miss. Code § 11-1-65).

Speak with an Attorney to Discuss Dram Shop Liability in Your Drunk Driving Accident

Contact our skilled and knowledgeable attorneys at Howe.Law to discuss your unique situation and determine if you can hold a bar, restaurant, nightclub, or another establishment for selling or providing alcohol to the drunk driver who caused your accident. Call 844-876-4357 to obtain a case review.

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