In 2016, one person was involved in a fatal crash every 50 minutes due to intoxication, almost 29 people every day. There is a major problem with that statistic: too many people are getting in their vehicles and driving impaired, despite being aware of the catastrophic consequences they may face. This era is plagued with DUIs and fatal crashes, many stemming from the overserving that takes place in bars. Can you sue a bar if you get a DUI? Read on to learn more about the legal justification of suing bars.
The “reasonable person standard” or the “duty of reasonable care” describes our personal moral and legal obligation to avoid hurting others through carelessness or recklessness. This is the basis of all negligence cases. Morally and ethically, serving a customer too much alcohol puts responsibility on the bar’s shoulders.
Why? Because it’s irresponsible and careless to allow a person to become noticeably intoxicated. We know what problems arise when someone is heavily intoxicated, so it’s the bars duty to prevent those occurrences.
Dram Shop Law
Legally, bars in certain states are held to the Dram Shop Law. Most states follow the law, excluding:
- South Dakota
Suing a bar because a driver received a DUI is not a loophole and is not just a personal vendetta. The Dram Shop Law indicates that it is strictly prohibited to serve alcohol to someone who is noticeably under the influence of alcohol.
If an intoxicated individual drives under the influence or causes an accident, they should be held responsible for their actions, which we can all agree on. Moreover, if the provider of the alcohol overserved, they can be held accountable by the plaintiff, but only if there’s proof.
How to Prove the Bar Overserved
The evidence has to be clear-cut, convincing and explicit. Here is what needs to be proved:
- The establishment served alcohol to the person who caused the accident or received the DUI, and that person was visibly intoxicated. This is taken so literally that in an Oregon case, it was concluded that it is irrelevant if a person’s blood alcohol levels exceeded the legal limit for a DUI case. The law only requires that the person be “visibly intoxicated”.
- The plaintiff did not contribute to the intoxication by distributing alcohol to the person, encouraging the person to purchase or drink alcohol, or by expediting the intoxicated person’s alcohol consumption.
For instance, Jane and Sally go to a bar to celebrate Sally’s engagement. Sally orders a few drinks and becomes visibly intoxicated. Then, Jane buys Sally a a few more drinks and three shots, that the bartender served to Sally. At the end of the night, Jane accepts Sally’s offer to drive her home.
Sally’s intoxication leads to an accident with another vehicle when she fails to stop at a stop sign, resulting in injuries to Jane. Jane sues Sally and the bar. The jury discovers that Jane proactively contributed to Sally’s intoxication. Jane cannot sue the bar, but the driver of the other car, who did not contribute to Sally’s inebriation, can sue the bar.
That being said, you can sue a bar if you get a DUI, but it is unlikely that the law will be enforced against an alcohol provider solely because a person is found guilty of a DUI. You willingly drank and drove and you were not forced to do so. However, yes, a bar can be sued for over-serving alcohol.
On the other hand, if a third party was injured, there may be a strong case against the establishment. If you’ve inquired a DUI or have been in an alcohol-related accident, you deserve the best legal representation possible. Contact The Berman Law Group today for a free consultation and review of your case.