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Drunk Driving Accidents

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Drunk driving accidents lead to so many deaths and serious injuries each year in Alabama. The extent of medical bills and overall economic and non-economic damages can be rather large, and auto insurance policies often do not cover the extent of damages in these types of personal injury and wrongful death cases. To obtain the compensation that meets some level of fairness, you need to make sure you sue all potential defendants. In many cases, that could include the bar, the restaurant, the wine store, or even the fun couple down the street hosting a party. States with dram shop laws allow these types of defendants, but the laws can be strict and limited.

At Mike Bell Injury Law, our accident attorney in Alabama helps clients fight for full and fair compensation. No matter the extent of your injuries and losses, you deserve the maximum the law allows so that you can recover properly and begin rebuilding your life. Contact us at 205-666-6000 to schedule a free consultation and to learn more about whether a dram shop law applies to your unique situation.

Dangers of Drunk Driving

People might drink alcohol for various reasons. Some people like to go out and party at a bar or drink during a holiday get-together with their family. Alcohol can be a way to relax, loosen up, and get away from inhibitions of everyday life. While this intoxicating effect can be beneficial to calm your nerves, it can hinder your ability to perform everyday tasks and can make you overestimate your abilities when you are not safe to drive. Too many people drink and then are overconfident about being able to drive safely, when even a single drink or two can be enough to cause a drunk driving accident. In reality, as our Alabama drunk driving lawyer explains, consuming even a small amount of alcohol can impair someone’s reaction time, motor skills, ability to think rationally or clearly, depth perception, and general judgment.

Aftermath of Drunk Driving Accidents

Whenever you are involved in any kind of accident, the first thing you have to do is make sure that you are healthy and safe. Examine yourself for injuries, and then look to see if anyone else needs medical attention. If you are in pain or something just doesn’t feel right in your body, then you need to get medical care as soon as possible. If you did not need to leave the scene in an ambulance due to severe injury, then take pictures of the accident scene, document injuries you sustained, approach eyewitnesses and ask for their contact information, and exchange information with the other driver. However, if you suspect that a driver is drunk it may not be the time to approach them. It may be better to call 911 and just wait for an officer to arrive so that they can handle the drunk and disorderly person properly. The last thing you need is to become further injured because a drunk driver became irate at you and created an even more unsafe situation. 

Pursuing Compensation

After a car accident involving a drunk driver, it’s understandable that victims would want to know what their options are moving forward. If you have questions about compensation and how to take legal action against the offending driver, please know that an Alabama drunk driving lawyer is ready to assist you. All you have to do is call Mike Bell Accident & Injury Lawyers, LLC to reserve a consultation. We are prepared to intervene and come to your aid, so do not hesitate to contact our law firm today.

Types of Dram Shop Laws

The term “dram shop” is a holdover from when alcohol was sold by the dram, which by modern-day standards is less than a teaspoon. Dram shop laws are laws that impose civil liability on a seller of alcoholic beverages when the person they sold alcohol to commits harmful, negligent acts. Not all states have dram shop laws, and among those that do, there are different types.

Laws Involving Minors

Many dram shop laws are geared towards situations where the person who is served the alcohol is under the age of 21. In particular, when the seller knew or should have known, that the person being served or sold the alcohol is under the age of 21, laws in those states hold the establishment liable for the resulting injuries caused by the underage, intoxicated party.

Social Host Liability Laws

In some states, “dram shop laws” and “social host liability laws” are used interchangeably. Generally speaking in those states, social host liability laws hold sellers responsible for injuries caused by intoxicated persons to whom they sold or provided alcohol when it was clear these intoxicated persons were indeed intoxicated and should not consume more alcohol.

In other states, social hosts are generally people that throw a party and serve alcohol, and they are treated differently from vendors who sell alcohol. In most of these states, a social host can be held liable for serving alcohol to a minor but not for serving alcohol to an intoxicated adult.

Habitual Drinker Laws

In some states that have dram shop laws, one of the ways an establishment can be held liable is when they serve a person known to them as someone that abuses alcohol.

Dram Shop Liability for Injuries

Dram shop liability depends on each state’s law on the same, if the state even has a law. It also depends on who the victim is. In first-party dram shop laws, the victim who files the claim is the person who was actually served the alcohol and caused an accident in which they were injured. Then there are third-party dram shop laws, which are typically what we think of when we consider dram shop laws, and in these laws, the victim who files the claim is the one who is injured by the intoxicated person. Knowing which applies in your state, if any, is important so that you can better strategize your claim and obtain maximum compensation.

First-Party Dram Shop Laws

First-party dram shop laws apply to cases where the plaintiff is the person that was served the alcohol. Typically, although it depends on the state, these are people under the age of 21, and after leaving the establishment that served them the alcohol, they suffer an injury due to their over-consumption. For example, if a 20-year-old was served alcohol to the point of intoxication at a bar, and then attempted to drive home but on the way lost control of their vehicle and hit a tree causing severe injuries, they may pursue a claim against the bar that served them.

First-party dram shop liability tends to be difficult to prove. A jury tends not to side with the party they hold accountable directly for the accident – in this case, the intoxicated minor. A jury tends to find against these claims because they believe the “victim” should be held responsible for their own actions.

Third-Party Dram Shop Laws

When a party that has been injured by an intoxicated person sues the establishment that served the intoxicated person the alcohol, third-party dram shop laws apply. For example, if we use the same example from above, but instead of hitting a tree the intoxicated 20-year-old driver hit another vehicle head-on, seriously injuring the occupants, then the third-party occupants may sue the bar. To be clear, under these laws, the 20-year-old intoxicated driver cannot sue the bar for damages if they were also injured.

Third-party dram shop liability tends to be less difficult to prove, but the claimant will have to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the establishment is at fault. In most jurisdictions with these types of laws, the claimant usually must show that the intoxicated driver was visibly intoxicated when over-served alcohol by the establishment or, if the intoxicated person was a minor, show that the establishment had reason to know the person served alcohol was under the age of 21 years.

Issues Arising out of Dram Shop Injury Cases

There are various issues that can arise out of dram shop injury cases. Although it depends on the state, some of the more common issues are described below.

Visible Intoxication

While proving that an underage person was served alcohol is not a difficult task, in cases where the person is over the age of 21, proving that they were “visibly intoxicated” can be burdensome. Often, a toxicologist will be retained by the plaintiff to prove that the drunk party was clearly, and visibly intoxicated.

Places Where Alcohol Was Consumed

Another issue for a person seeking restitution under the dram shop laws is proving that the vendor was the only entity or person that served the person in question alcohol. In other words, was the vendor the only establishment where the intoxicated person consumed alcohol, or was it just one of many?

Cause of Accident

Proving that a person involved in an accident was incorrectly served, or over-served, alcohol is not enough to recover compensation from the vendor. In addition, it still needs to be established that the intoxicated person actually caused the accident.

Evidence in Dram Shop Liability Cases

Recovering restitution under dram shop laws is often multi-faceted. Further, as the above issues indicate, proving liability can be challenging. You have a burden to prove your case by a preponderance of the evidence. That evidence can include:

  • Expert testimony, like toxicologists
  • Witness testimony, like statements of any witnesses present when the intoxicated person was at the bar, bought the alcohol, etc.
  • Receipts or credit card statements,  that indicate the amount of alcohol that was served and at what times it was served
  • Photographs or videos that can be recovered showing how much alcohol the person was served, as well as the condition they were in when they arrived at the establishment and when they left the establishment

According to the facts of the case and the jurisdiction, additional evidence may be needed.

Remedies for Dram Shop Injuries

Like all personal injury cases, if you have been injured by an intoxicated driver and the jurisdiction’s dram shop law apply to your case, you can seek damages from the third party just as you would from the intoxicated driver. Restaurants, bars, alcohol stores, and the like might be held responsible, and if they are, they may owe:

  • Economic damages, like medical bills and lost wages
  • Non-economic damages, like pain and suffering
  • Punitive damages, if applicable, to punish and deter

The damages you can seek are state-specific, and you can only seek them against a restaurant, bar, or alcohol store if your state allows it. Contacting a lawyer to help you know your rights, the law, and who can be held responsible is the first step to making sure you get full and fair compensation.

Contact a Dram Shop Injury Attorney in Alabama Today

It is controversial to hold liable any bar, restaurant, or store selling alcohol, and any other establishment for selling or providing alcohol to consumers who soon thereafter drive while under the influence of alcohol and cause an auto accident. For those who find themselves victims of drunk driving accidents, holding these businesses liable makes sense. They are part of the problem if they knew or should have known that the driver was already intoxicated and should not be served or sold more alcohol. That moral culpability seems like it should also mean legal liability, but not always.

Our drunk driving injury lawyer handles these types of cases. Contact Mike Bell Accident & Injury Lawyers, LLC to schedule a consultation and to learn more about these laws and whether they apply in Alabama.

Mike Bell Accident & Injury Lawyers is committed to answering your questions about personal injury law issues in Alabama and Georgia.

WE OFFER A FREE CONSULTATION and we’ll gladly discuss your case with you at your convenience. Contact us today to schedule an appointment and find out how much your case is worth!


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