When someone is injured by an intoxicated person, liability for damages are almost always levied against the person who was intoxicated. However, sometimes these cases aren’t as straightforward as they seem. Dram shop laws, used in many states including Alabama, can be used to hold an establishment (bar, restaurant, speakeasy etc.) or social host responsible if they supplied alcohol to someone who was already intoxicated. The argument is, by negligently serving alcohol to a patron to a drunk, the actions of the social host or establishment actually started the chain of events that caused the injury.
Details About Dram Shop Laws5
Dram shop laws were enacted in many states after the end of Prohibition in 1932. Dram shop laws are an adaptation of old English laws that regulated tavern liquor sales, which back then measured alcohol servings in “drams.”
Dram shop laws, like many other laws, have certain requirements (also known as elements) that must be met in order to establish liability in a lawsuit. These requirements are:
The plaintiff must prove that the establishment or social host served alcohol to someone who was already clearly intoxicated. This is why many bars and restaurants will also “cut off” patrons if they’ve had too much to drink. In fact, the Alabama Alcoholic Beverage Control Board expressly states under licensing that licensed establishments cannot sell alcohol to people “ if such person appears, considering the totality of the circumstances, to be intoxicated.”
The plaintiff must prove that the establishment or social host’s actions of serving an excessive amount of alcohol was the proximate cause to the damages the plaintiff sustained. In other words, if the establishment or social host did not serve as much alcohol as they did to an intoxicated person, the damages caused by the plaintiff would not have occurred or would not have been as severe. For example, if a driver crashed into another vehicle because he drank too much at a bar, and that bar failed to cut him off, then the bar’s actions were a proximate cause for the damages sustained by the victim of the crash.
It’s important to note that every case is different, and that a case may be handled differently based on who served the alcohol. Social host liability, usually concerning weddings, birthdays and the like, is usually enacted in cases where alcohol is served to someone who’s already drunk or if they serve alcohol to a minor, but are not technically bound to Alabama alcoholic Beverages Control Board. In either instance, it must be shown that the establishment or social host violated Alabama state alcohol law in some way.
Options for Victims
If you’ve been injured by the actions of an intoxicated person, there are steps you can take to strengthen your case. The first step you should take after being injured is to collect as much evidence as you can. This can be in the form of medical bills, police reports, witness contact information, receipts and other purchase records, photos of where the incident took place, and anything else you can think of. It would also be a good idea to keep a journal of your process and experiences relating to your injuries, as this could also be used as evidence later in your case.
Your next big step is to contact an experienced personal injury lawyer. When seeking compensation in any injury lawsuit, your lawyer will be your greatest asset for two reasons. 1) Your lawyer will handle most of the “heavy lifting” of your case. Your top priority after an injury is to recover, and injury lawyers understand that. Experienced personal injury lawyers will know how to deal with uncooperative establishments and negligent parties who might otherwise try to give you a fast settlement that doesn’t represent a fair value for your case. 2) Your lawyer should have the skills and knowledge necessary to give you the best chance for a successful lawsuit. Personal injury lawyers have teams of experts and investigators to aid in discovering which route is the best to take in your case. Furthermore, your lawyer will have your best interest at heart, and won’t be afraid to fight for your right to compensation in court if necessary.