Understanding Dram Laws And What They May Mean To Your Personal Injury Case

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Everyone loves a good celebration. For many people, celebrations often include good food, good fun, and a lot of alcohol. This does not pose a problem until the person who is intoxicated chooses to get behind the wheel of their car. It is then that they become a hazard not only to themselves, but to every other driver on the road. If you have been injured by a drunk driver, not only is the driver liable, but you may also have a case against the establishment where they were drinking at. Unfortunately, dram laws vary by state. You will have to consult a personal injury attorney in your area to see if these laws apply to your case.

What Is A Dram?

dram is a unit of measurement which is equal to 1/8 of a fluid ounce, but it is also used to describe a small amount of liquor. Therefore, a dram shop refers to a place that sells alcoholic beverages, such as a bar or a tavern. 

Bars or restaurants selling alcoholic beverages have a degree of responsibility. While they are in the business of selling alcohol, they have to ensure that they cut off those who may have had enough to drink.  There are multiple advantages realized by doing this.

  • Their premises remain undamaged by drunken bar fights.
  • Staff are not accosted by drunken patrons.
  • They do not incur liability under dram shop laws if the patrons injure anyone when they leave the location.

What Are Dram Shop Laws?

While dram shop laws vary from state to state, most hold retail establishments, and sometimes a party host, liable for any damages caused by their choice to serve alcohol to someone who is already intoxicated. Forty-two out of fifty states have some form of these laws in place. The eight states that do not are:

  • Delaware
  • Kansas
  • Louisiana
  • Maryland
  • Nebraska
  • Nevada
  • South Dakota
  • Virginia

These laws were created to help govern lawsuits which arise from injuries caused by people who have purchased alcoholic beverages from bars or restaurants. Most of the laws place a part of the responsibility, and in turn the liability, on the establishments that profited from selling the alcohol. 

This means that not only may you bring a lawsuit against the driver who was behind the wheel, but you may also be able to make a case against the location where the person was served alcohol. But how do these locations know when to cut their patrons off, is this always obvious?

What Is The Obvious Intoxication Test?

Consuming certain amount of alcohol will have different impacts on different people. This is because how the body absorbs the alcohol is affected by multiple things. These include:

  • The person's body weight
  • Their sex
  • The quality, or the proof, of what they are drinking
  • Foods they consumed prior to drinking
  • How well they are eliminating the alcohol
  • Their alcohol tolerance

This often makes it difficult for a bar to set a limit of how much a patron can drink before they are obviously intoxicated.

Under the rule of the obvious intoxication test, you must prove that the establishment knew, or should have known, that the person was intoxicated. You must be able to show that by negligently serving them more alcohol, the establishment knew this would pose a risk to the patron or to others.

Some states, such as Illinois, do not have to meet this legal test. In Illinois all you have to do is to show:

  • The establishment sold alcohol to the person
  • The accident was caused by the person
  • The establishment was the proximate cause of the intoxication
  • The intoxication was one of the causes of the accident

As previously stated, these rules vary from state to state. A personal injury attorney in your state will be able to review your case and advise you pertaining to the dram laws in your location. Give them a call, it may make a major difference in the amount you are able to recover.