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Can I Sue a Bar That Overserved a Drunk Driver in Alabama?

dram shop liability

Did you know that bars and restaurants may be liable when they overserve a drunk driver? When someone injures you or someone you love, it’s common to focus on the reckless driver’s insurance policies. However, Alabama law provides other options that you should explore.

In this post, we’ll delve into Alabama dram shop laws, how they work, and what it all means for victims of drunk driving-related car accidents.

How Do Alabama Dram Shop Laws Work?

In Alabama and most other states, when a drunk driver causes a serious crash, you can file a lawsuit against a person or business that gave them alcohol “contrary to the provisions of law.” These laws are often called dram shop laws, because the alcohol in hard drinks was historically measured by a unit called a dram.

When Do Alabama’s Dram Shop Laws Apply?

In our state, dram shop laws apply to both businesses, like bars, restaurants, and social clubs, and individuals (sometimes called social hosts). While the rules that apply to businesses and social hosts have slight differences, they typically prohibit serving alcohol to:

  • Someone who is visibly intoxicated or impaired
  • A minor who is under the age of 21

If they violate these rules and the drunk driver injures someone, the business or social host may be financially responsible for the victim’s injuries.

For example, suppose Dana Driver goes to her favorite nightclub with friends. She repeatedly orders shots of whiskey from the bartender. Throughout the evening, her speech becomes increasingly slurred, she struggles to stand up, and acts increasingly erratic. However, the bartender keeps on serving Dana. When Dana runs a red light and t-bones your vehicle, you may have a dram shop case against the club.

While this standard may seem relatively simple, it gets quite complicated in practice. Suppose that Dana visits her favorite local pub with friends. She has a hearty dinner, and the party orders multiple pitchers of beer. While Dana seems “tipsy,” her speech remains clear and she doesn’t make a scene. After one last pitcher, she stands up, wobbles off, and hits the road. Would a victim have a dram shop claim?

The answer may depend on a variety of factors. How many pitchers of beer did Dana order? How long was she at the bar? Were there other obvious signs of intoxication? What was Dana’s blood-alcohol concentration at the crash scene?

An experienced drunk driving injury lawyer can help you investigate your claims and determine whether you have a dram shop liability claim against the bar or pub.

Who Can File a Dram Shop Lawsuit in Alabama?

You might have a dram shop liability claim if you were injured by a drunk driver that the business or social host overserved. In addition to the actual crash victim, you may also have a claim if your spouse or close relative was seriously injured or died in the crash.

However, you cannot file a dram shop claim if you were the drunk driver that was overserved.

How Much Time Do I Have to File My Dram Shop Claim?

Under Alabama law, you must file your dram shop claim within two years of your date of the injury. Filing a personal injury claim against the drunk driver does not pause this filing deadline. If you’re not sure how Alabama’s dram shop statute of limitations applies to your claim, contact our office for a free consultation.

RELATED: Surviving a Head-On Crash With a Drunk Driver: Lisa’s Story

How Much Is My Dram Shop Claim Worth in Alabama?

Like any personal injury claim, your dram shop lawsuit’s worth will depend on many factors, including:

  • The circumstances surrounding the crash, including the driver’s level of intoxication
  • The severity of your injuries
  • Your need for ongoing medical care
  • Whether you have lost income
  • Your likelihood of recovering from your injuries
  • The business or social host’s insurance coverage

In addition to compensation for your medical bills, lost income, and pain and suffering, you may also be entitled to punitive (or exemplary) damages. Unlike economic and non-economic damages, which compensate you for your losses, punitive damages punish the wrongdoer for their conduct.

RELATED: Did a Drunk or Drugged Driver Cause Your Crash? Here’s What You Need to Know

Injured by a Drunk Driver? Call Andy Citrin Injury Attorneys Today

If you or someone you love was the victim of a drunk driving traffic crash, call Andy Citrin Injury Attorneys to learn more about the dram shop laws in Alabama. Our team will listen and explain your options for filing a claim and represent you aggressively in court. We are always happy to begin with a no-risk, free consultation. Simply call 251-888-8888 or complete our online contact form to set up your consultation.

References

Alabama Code §6-5-71 (1940).

Alabama Code §6-5-72 (1994).

The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.