How Could a Dram Shop Law Affect My Car Accident Case?

May 29, 2024

A drunk driver is often automatically regarded as being the driver at fault for a drunk driving crash. However, if the intoxicated driver was over-served at a Pennsylvania establishment, the driver might not be solely to blame for the crash. Pennsylvania’s dram shop laws allow you to hold a bar or restaurant responsible for damage caused by a patron who was over-served alcohol.

Dram shop laws can make liability in a drunk driving accident claim much more complicated. However, they also open the door to an additional form of car accident injury compensation. If the drunk driver’s car insurance policy doesn’t adequately cover your injury costs, dram shop liability may be the key to recovering the injury compensation you need.

What Is a Dram Shop Law?

Holding Bars Responsible for Over-Serving Guests

“Dram shop” is a historical term used to refer to any place where alcohol was sold. While those places are now more commonly referred to as bars or restaurants, laws addressing their legal obligations for serving alcohol responsibly are known as “dram shop laws.” The majority of U.S. states, including Pennsylvania, have some form of dram shop law in place. These laws encourage establishments to serve alcohol responsibly and hold them accountable when they fail to do so.

A bar or restaurant that serves an intoxicated guest can be held responsible for injury costs if that guest causes a drunk driving accident.

Pennsylvania’s dram shop laws apply to bars, restaurants, liquor stores, and other public establishments that have a license to sell or serve alcohol. The laws also apply to private companies, such as catering or bar services, that serve alcohol at a private party or event. Dram shop laws don’t apply to parties or social events where a license isn’t needed to serve liquor. In situations like that, Pennsylvania’s social host laws only specify host obligations when minors are served or have access to alcohol.

Under Pennsylvania dram shop laws, a licensed liquor seller can be held legally responsible for drunk driving accident damages and injuries if they serve alcohol to a minor or a visibly intoxicated adult patron. Any time a bar or restaurant owner or employee serves alcohol to a guest who is already intoxicated, that business can be held legally responsible for the resulting damage. If the intoxicated guest then leaves the establishment, gets in their car, and causes a crash, the business may be liable for the accident costs under Pennsylvania dram shop laws.

Were you injured in a drunk driving accident in Pennsylvania or New Jersey? Wapner Newman’s experienced car accident attorney can help build a case for compensation. Call us at (215) 569-0900 to discuss driver negligence and dram shop liability during your free consultation.

When to Consider Dram Shop Liability for a Crash

Exploring Options When the Driver’s Insurance Isn’t Enough

The typical route for recovering injury compensation after a drunk driving crash is to start with the driver’s insurance policy. A lawyer will usually begin by building a case for negligence against intoxicated driving. They’ll go through the process of collecting evidence to prove the driver’s intoxication level was the primary reason for the crash. They’ll identify damages, submit a claim, and attempt to negotiate a settlement with the drunk driver’s insurance company. This is the process for obtaining compensation in most car accident cases, even when the other driver isn’t under the influence of alcohol. In many cases, this process is enough to obtain fair injury compensation. In others, it doesn’t come close.

Dram shop laws can significantly impact your car accident case. It might make the process take longer, but proving dram shop liability may be the key to recovering the injury compensation you need.

There are two main situations in which following the standard procedure doesn’t work. The first is when the other driver doesn’t have insurance. The other is when you suffer catastrophic injuries. In a case like this, the insurance policy limits may cap the amount you can recover. For severe injuries, obtaining the maximum amount available through policy limits may not come close to what your long-term injury costs will be. This is particularly true when a serious injury results in loss of earning ability or the need for lifelong attendant care. A car accident lawyer is most likely to suggest the more challenging option of building a case for dram shop liability in situations where there is no other method of obtaining adequate injury compensation.

How a Car Accident Lawyer Proves Dram Shop Liability

Attempting to recover injury compensation by proving dram shop liability can be a challenging process. It may involve more work than simply proving negligence on the part of the drunk driver. It may also make your case take longer to resolve. However, when you’ve been left with serious drunk driving accident injuries, it’s often necessary to fight for the compensation you need.

The key element for proving dram shop liability is proving that an employee of the restaurant knew the at-fault driver was intoxicated but continued to serve them alcohol. The legal standard under dram shop law is whether the intoxicated individual was “visibly intoxicated.” Alcohol impacts individuals differently, meaning a person’s sobriety level isn’t always easy to gauge. The business’s legal team will undoubtedly try to argue that the individual didn’t show signs of intoxication before they were served. To prove liability, your lawyer will need to collect evidence such as:

  • Eyewitness testimony
  • Security camera footage
  • Social media video posts or live streams
  • Expert witness testimony.

Successfully proving dram shop liability often comes down to whether there was video evidence showing the state of the individual’s appearance and demeanor at the time they were served at the bar or restaurant. An expert witness may be able to help strengthen your case by testifying that, given the drunk driver’s BAC at the time of the crash, they were likely visibly intoxicated at the time they were served.

Call Our Car Accident Lawyers Today

It’s important to consider all your options after you’re injured in a drunk driving accident. All too often, the injured person walks away with a fraction of the compensation they need due to a combination of inexperienced legal representation and insurance policy limits. When you choose Wapner Newman to represent you in a drunk driving car accident claim, you can trust that you’re hiring a skilled legal team who won’t rest until every compensation option has been considered. Our experienced attorneys know how to prove dram shop liability, and we’ll make sure that option is explored as we fight to recover the injury compensation you need.

Call Wapner Newman at (215) 569-0900 to schedule your free consultation with a car accident attorney. We serve clients across Pennsylvania and New Jersey, and we charge no fees unless we win your case.