Are Bars Liable For Drunk Driving Accidents?
The idea that a bar can be sued for over-serving a person is often referred to as a “dram shop law” in legal and legislative circles. Under these laws, the owner of an establishment that serves alcohol can be held liable if the patron goes out and hurts someone.
According to the logic of the laws, drinking establishments need a legal incentive to cut people off from drinks in order to avoid drunk driver accidents, which often have serious or deadly consequences. These laws also hold establishments responsible if they carelessly over-serve patrons.
Tennessee has a fairly narrow version of these laws, meaning that a Nashville car accident attorney will have to assemble relatively airtight evidence if they wish to hold an establishment accountable for a resulting drunk driving accident injury. Nevertheless, injury victims should always pursue their right to legal action in order to obtain the maximum possible compensation for their injury and resulting hardship.
Tennessee Dram Shop Laws and Drunk Driver Accidents
In the state of Tennessee, Tennessee Code 57-10-102 outlines the corresponding “dram shop” law describing the liability of establishments that serve alcohol. This set of laws is stricter than most states and stricter than most civil court procedures in general.
Unlike most civil procedures where a “preponderance of evidence” standard is used by judges and juries, the Tennessee dram shop law forces a 12 person jury to adopt a “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard. This standard, used mostly in criminal cases, requires that if any evidence could possibly contradict the case narrative of the defendant’s liability, then the case cannot rule in favor of the plaintiff. Juries must not have any “reasonable doubt” as to the defendant’s wrongdoing, in other words.
Additionally, a liability claim can only be brought against establishments if they actually sold the alcohol to a person who was “visibly intoxicated” or a minor under age 21. The alcohol sale must also have been the direct cause of the injury.
In regards to the last requirement, someone who was intoxicated before they bought additional drinks may have already been impaired enough to cause an accident, making the last point-of-sale not necessarily a direct cause of an injury. Likewise, a drunk person who slips and falls into the road, causing someone to swerve, hit a telephone pole and injure themselves may also involve too indirect of a scenario according to this high standard of liability.
However, these two hypothetical examples could play out differently depending on the circumstances and the jury in question, meaning all injured parties should at least explore a dram shop claim before ruling it out altogether.
Legal Precedents For Bar Liability
Legal precedents for bar liability have been established in several court cases over the years, as dram shop laws hold that bars can be held liable for injuries or deaths caused by a drunk driver. In some states, an intoxicated person cannot sue a bar for serving them alcoholic beverages, but a third-party can sue a bar for damages caused by a drunk driver. These cases often involve a drunk driver causing a drunk driving accident, in which the bar can be held liable for damages resulting from the drunk driving accident.
In some cases, the bar can be held liable if it served alcohol to a minor or if the bar owners know the individual was intoxicated and still served the person alcoholic beverages. This is especially true when the bar knowingly served alcohol to a minor or to an intoxicated person who then caused a drunk driving accident. By serving alcohol to an individual who was already intoxicated, the bar can be held responsible for any injuries or deaths caused by the drunk driver.
It is important to note that courts have determined that bars can be held liable for drunk driving accidents, as dram shop laws provide that a bar can be sued for damages resulting from a drunk driver who was served alcoholic beverages. This means that if an intoxicated person causes a drunk driving accident, the bar that served that individual alcohol can be held accountable for any resulting injuries or deaths.
Factors for Determining Liability
When determining liability in a drunk driving car accident, courts typically take into account the factors of whether or not the bar served alcohol to an intoxicated person, a minor, or a visibly intoxicated person. Additionally, courts will also consider whether or not the bar knew or should have known that the person it served alcohol to was intoxicated. If the bar was aware that the person it was serving alcohol to was drunk, then it can be held liable for any injuries or deaths caused by the intoxicated driver.
In some states, dram shop liability laws also apply, which make it possible for an injured person or their family to sue a bar if they served alcohol to a drunk driver who caused a drunk driving accident. Under these laws, the bar can be held liable for any damages caused by the drunk driver, even if the harm was indirectly caused by the intoxicated driver.
In summary, when determining liability, courts typically consider whether the bar served alcohol to a minor, an intoxicated person, or a visibly intoxicated person, as well as whether or not the bar was aware that the person it was serving alcohol to was drunk. Additionally, dram shop laws can often be applied, which can hold the bar liable for damages caused by a drunk driver.
State Regulations on Bar Liability
State regulations on bar liability vary from state to state, but many states have enacted laws that hold bars liable for drunk driving car accidents caused by someone who was served alcohol by the bar. These regulations typically state that a bar can be held liable for any personal injury, property damage, or wrongful death caused by a drunk driver who was served alcohol by the bar.
In some states, dram shop claims can be made against bars that serve alcohol to an intoxicated patron, regardless of the legal drinking age. Additionally, some states have legislation that holds bar owners liable for damages caused by a drunk driver, even if the bar was unaware that the person they served alcohol to was intoxicated.
These regulations are in place to encourage bar owners to be more responsible when serving alcohol, as they can be held liable for any damages caused by a drunk driver they served. As such, they should take steps to ensure that they are not serving alcohol to an intoxicated patron or to someone who is underage. Additionally, they should also ensure that they are not serving alcohol to someone who is visibly intoxicated. By following these regulations, bar owners can help to reduce the number of drunk driving car accidents caused by their patrons.
Alcohol Sales and the Need for a Nashville Car Accident Attorney
An additional rule in these cases requires that the alcohol provider in question sell the drinks to the person in a normal business transaction, meaning that party hosts may not face liability for over-serving guests.
Accident victims will need a Nashville car accident attorney to help them sort through these details and decide how to best pursue their personal injury claim. You can contact the law offices of Mitch Grissim & Associates using the number above or our short online contact form to receive a free consultation regarding your case and your legal options.