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Dram Shop Laws: When a Bar is Responsible for a Drunk Driver’s Behavior

DramShop

Florida law punished people who get behind the wheel drunk, and cause accidents, both through criminal law, and civil, personal injury laws. But oftentimes, the responsibility for an accident is not just the person who drove intoxicated, but the business, bar or establishment that served the drink to the person.

From a bar or business’ perspective, it is the person who drinks and gets behind the wheel who should be responsible for accidents that are caused by the driver’s own behavior. But from a victim’s perspective, a business that knowingly serves someone who is intoxicated, knowing that they will get behind the wheel, the business or bar or restaurant, should have some responsibility.

Dram Shop Laws

Like many states, Florida has what are known as “dram shop laws.” These are laws that allow victims to sue businesses that serve people alcohol, who then get behind the wheel and subsequently injure someone. Unfortunately, Florida’s Dram shop laws make things difficult for victims. To show that a bar or establishment is liable for an accident caused by a drunk driver, the victim must demonstrate:

  1. That the business willfully served someone underage who eventually caused the accident, or
  2. If the person was not underage, the victim must show that the business “knowingly” served someone who was addicted to alcohol

As you can see, there is a lot for a victim to prove. In the case of minors, it is not enough that a bar served someone underage, but rather, the business had to actually know the person being served was too young to drink. In cases where a patron shows a fake ID or where the patron simply looks older than his or her age, the bar can claim that it had no way of knowing the customer was underage.

The good news is that in some cases, courts have said that a bar cannot willingly take a blind eye to a person’s age. For example, a bar cannot knowingly refuse to ask for a patron’s ID, then later claim they had no knowledge of the patron’s age.

Showing Addiction

In cases where the drunk patron was an adult, the bar has to know that the person being served was not just drunk at the time he or she was being served, but that the person was addicted to alcohol. That means that the person who caused the accident, must have some kind of alcohol addiction problem.

For “regulars,” that is, patrons who come into the establishment routinely, and who regularly drink more than they should, it may be easier for victims to show the bar had knowledge the patron had an alcohol problem. But for one time customers, showing the business knew that the patron had an alcohol problem is much more difficult.

The Tampa personal injury attorneys at Barbas, Nuñez, Sanders, Butler & Hovsepian can help you if you are injured by a drunk driver or in any kind of car accident. Call us today to discuss obtaining damages after any accident. Schedule a consultation today.

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