Dram Shop Laws And Social Host Liability For Drunk Drivers
If you have been injured by a drunk driver, you may encounter two difficulties. The first is obvious–your injuries themselves, as well as the mounting bills and expenses that stem from the accident–but the second problem is that the other driver may have no insurance, or little insurance, leaving you with nobody to pursue to help compensate you for your injuries.
Suing Whomever Served the Drunk Driver
But Massachusetts allows victims of drunk drivers to sue not just the drunk driver, but any establishment that may have served the drunk driver the alcohol in the first place. That includes commercial establishments like bars or restaurants, as well as social hosts, like someone just throwing a party at their home.
These laws that allow victims to sue establishments, businesses, or property owners for damages caused by a drunk driver are called dram shop laws. Massachusetts is lucky, because the requirements to sue are easier than they are in many states, which often make it much harder for victims to sue businesses or social hosts.
Serving Intoxicated People
The key to finding a business liable for the actions of a drunk driver, is that the victim needs to demonstrate that the business or social host served someone alcohol, even after that person became “visibly intoxicated.” If a business does continue to serve someone that is visibly intoxicated, the business can be held liable for the injuries that intoxicated person causes when he or she gets behind the wheel.
Of course, there is often pushback from Defendants on what visibly intoxicated is, and there is no definitive guideline. Certainly, someone who was having problems walking, or whose speech was slurred, would qualify as visibly intoxicated, and thus should not be served any more alcohol by a business.
But often, staff in bars or restaurants may not have enough personal interaction with a patron, to know that the person is or is not intoxicated.
Many businesses are encouraged to give staff training on identifying the signs of intoxication, and many insurance companies offer businesses financial benefits to providing such training. There is even a nationwide program, called Training for Intervention Procedures, that restaurant and bar staff can take, to help staff identify intoxicated patrons.
Establishments that serve alcohol are also required to carry liquor liability coverage; many insurance policies are around $1 million, providing ample insurance coverage in the event that someone is injured by a customer that was served too much alcohol.
Remember that you can still sue the driver, and most drivers’ insurance policies will cover drunk drivers (meaning, compensate you if you win or settle your case). That means that a drunk driving case may have multiple defendants and multiple insurance companies. But given the amount of damages and injury that a drunk driver can cause, that is no surprise.
Have you been injured by a drunk driver or by someone who got behind the wheel of a car while intoxicated? Call the Boston personal injury lawyers at The Law Office of Joseph Linnehan, Jr. today at 617-275-4200 for help.