Dram Shop Liability Lawyers
If a drunk driver has injured you or a loved one, Georgia state law allows you to recover the costs of your injuries through a personal injury lawsuit. Many people do not realize that the driver who caused the accident may not be the only person financially responsible for your damages. The store, bar, restaurant, or social host who overserved the driver alcohol may also be liable for your injuries. Georgia’s Dram Shop Act states that businesses that serve alcohol have a legal duty not to serve minors alcohol and to not over-serve adults alcohol.
Schedule a Free Case Evaluation With a Georgia Dram Shop Attorney
If a drunk driver has caused you injuries, attorney James Rice is here to help. He has dedicated his legal practice to helping victims of accidents recover the combination they need and deserve. He has a proven track record of helping victims of drunk driving recover sizable financial compensation for their injuries.
When you contact attorney James Rice, he will schedule a free initial consultation with you during which he will answer your questions, examine your case, and help you understand whether or not you have a valid dram shop claim against the drunk driver, the person or company who served the driver alcohol, or both. You do not have to face the aftermath of your injuries alone. Contact Atlanta-based dram shop claim attorney James Rice today to schedule your free initial consultation.
Georgia’s Dram Shop Act
Georgia’s Dram Shop Act (O.C.G.A. § 51-1-40) and rulings by Georgia appellate courts that interpret that statute governs dram shop and social host liability. Social host and dram shop claims can be asserted by innocent individuals who become injured in drunk driving accidents. Victims need to prove that the defendant willfully and unlawfully sold or gave alcohol to someone under age 21 or a person of any age in a state of noticeable intoxication.
Can a Host of a Party be Held Liable for Serving Too Much Alcohol?
Yes, victims can sometimes hold social hosts liable for injuries and deaths. You do not have to prove that the person who over-served alcohol was a bar, restaurant, or other business. Private individuals who host parties or events can also be held liable if they over-serve alcohol and an accident that results in injuries occurs.
Injuries Caused by Intoxicated Minors
Unfortunately, drunk driving accidents frequently involve minors. Minors might drink alcohol at house parties or other informal gatherings, not at clubs or bars. The person or people who provided the minors with alcohol can be held liable for the resulting DUI accident. However, as with other social host cases, the victim must prove that the person who served the minors alcohol was aware that they were under 21 or failed to ask about their age. Georgia courts treat these cases exactly the same as dram shop liability cases, but under the legal theory known as “social host liability.”
Holding an Intoxicated Minor’s Parents Liable
In some drunk-driving cases, a minor’s own parents gave them access to alcohol, and the minor became intoxicated and caused an accident. Victims can bring a social host claim against a drunk driver of any age if they can prove that the party’s host over-served them. For example, homeowners, employers, and anyone else who provided alcohol at a party for minors or adults can be liable.
Victims may not necessarily have a claim against the minor’s parents just because they are the homeowners, however. The plaintiff needs to prove that the defendant provided or served the alcohol to bring charges against them under Georgia’s social host laws. If the parents who owned the property where the incident occurred served the minor alcohol, victims can pursue compensation against the parents.
Proving Liability in a Georgia Dram Shop Law or Social Host Lawsuit
It has been proven that alcohol impairment makes drivers significantly less safe. As a result, drivers who are impaired by alcohol pose a significant risk to everyone else on the road. Victims of car crashes are more likely to be killed or suffer catastrophic injuries in accidents caused by intoxicated drivers than they are in accidents caused by sober drivers. It is not unusual for drunk drivers to cause fatal accidents.
Georgia and many other states have enacted dram shop laws to protect innocent victims from drunk drivers who are over-served alcohol. When there is evidence that a person or business unlawfully served alcohol to an underage driver or to a noticeably intoxicated adult who goes on to cause an accident, the victim should consider pursuing a dram shop or social host lawsuit to recover compensation for their injuries.
Who Can Be Held Liable Under Georgia’s Dram Shop Laws?
George’s dram shop laws make it possible for victims of drunk driving accidents to hold certain people or businesses financially responsible for their injuries. Dram shop laws typically apply to the following:
- Restaurants, bars, nightclubs, liquor stores, grocery stores, convenience stores, and concert and sports venues
- Party hosts, waiters, and other alcohol servers
When a person or business serves alcohol to a patron or guest, and that person leaves the premises and causes an injury to another person, the victim can bring a dram shop or social host lawsuit. For example, suppose a bar continues to serve a customer alcohol when that person is visibly intoxicated. In that case, the customer drives his car and kills someone, and the victim’s family can bring a lawsuit against the bar for damages.
Dram shop lawsuits are civil lawsuits brought against the server and/or restaurant owner who over-served alcohol. These laws prevent establishments and social hosts from serving alcohol to visibly impaired people or minors. Pursuing a claim through a dram shop law allows victims to hold restaurants, bars, and social hosts liable for another person’s injuries when they violate these laws.
Who Can Pursue a Dram Shop Lawsuit?
Georgia’s Dram Shop Act governs dram shop liability and social host liability cases. In Georgia, these claims are started by innocent victims, often drivers whose vehicles have been struck by an intoxicated driver. Injured passengers can also seek compensation through dram shop or social host claims. Similarly, a pedestrian or bicyclist injured by a drunk driver can pursue compensation through these laws.
Additionally, even though passengers who were inside the intoxicated driver’s vehicle can pursue a dram shop and social host lawsuit against the driver, they will need to show that the establishment over-served the driver alcohol or served the driver alcohol as a minor. In other words, all of the victims of the drunk driving accident, except for the drunk driver and his or her family members, have a right to pursue a dram shop or social host claim when the facts in the case warrant such a claim.
The Difference Between Dram Shop and Social Host Lawsuits
Two types of dram shop and social host claims are allowed under George’s Dram Shop Act. The first claim involves a person or business serving alcohol to underage or visibly impaired motorists. Underage motorists are people who have not turned 21 yet. The second type of claim is called a social host claim. In these types of claims, the defendant served alcohol to someone in a noticeable intoxication state. The main difference between a dram shop claim and a social host claim involves who served the alcohol.
If a business served the intoxicated driver alcohol, the business could be considered a dram shop. “Dram shop” is a name for an establishment that sells alcohol to patrons. However, if someone served the intoxicated driver alcohol at a party, dinner, or another type of private social event, the victim can pursue a social host lawsuit. The victim can pursue a claim against a person acting in his or her personal capacity. The defendant does not need to be a business such as a restaurant or a bar.
Do I Have a Valid Dram Shop Liability Case?
To pursue a dram shop liability claim, you must prove several elements. Discussing your case with an attorney is the best way to find out whether you have a valid claim. Under Georgia law, a plaintiff suing another person or company under George’s dram shop laws needs to prove the following elements:
- A bar, restaurant, alcohol retailer, or host of a private party served alcohol to the patron
- There is evidence that the server of the alcohol knew or should have known that the patron was intoxicated when served the alcohol
- There is evidence that the server of the alcohol knew or should have known that the patron would soon be driving a motor vehicle after being served additional alcohol
- The patron caused third-party injuries or other damages due to driving while intoxicated
Georgia’s Dram Shop Act is not a strict liability statute. As a result, merely serving alcohol to a driver who causes an alcohol-impaired car accident later is not enough to succeed. For example, selling or giving alcohol to an adult who is sober and goes on to cause a car accident does not meet the standard for a dram shop or social host liability lawsuit. Instead, the victim must use evidence to prove that the social host or dram shop served alcohol to a minor or someone who was noticeably intoxicated.
Proving the Defendant Was in a “State of Noticeable Intoxication”
Many dram shop law claims come down to whether the server knew or should have known that the person who caused the accident was in a state of noticeable intoxication when they served him or her alcohol. There isn’t a precise definition or clear-cut standard for what constitutes noticeable intoxication. Instead, this is a factual question that a court will decide based on all available evidence. Georgia juries usually have to resolve this issue based on the facts and their own conception of what it means for someone to be noticeably intoxicated.
Georgia appellate courts had held that victims of drunk driving only need to prove that the defendant knew or should have known that the drunk driver was noticeably intoxicated when the alcohol was given to them. Victims of drunk driving accidents can use expert testimony to help prove that at a given blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level, the driver likely appears to be noticeably intoxicated. Victims can use direct or circumstantial evidence to show that the server should have reasonably known that the noticeably intoxicated person would soon be driving a motor vehicle.
For example, suppose a person is slurring their speech, reeks of alcohol, cannot move in a normal manner, is acting in a belligerent fashion, or is showing other signs of being overly intoxicated. In that case, the plaintiff will likely be able to prove that person was noticeably intoxicated. If the case involves someone serving a minor alcohol, proving that the server did not ask to see the identification of the customer’s age can be enough to prove liability in many cases.
Proving the Defendant Should Have Known Not to Serve the Driver Alcohol
Victims do not have to prove that the person or business that served the driver alcohol knew that the defendant was already intoxicated or not of lawful drinking age. This standard helps victims in their pursuit of compensation. Victims need to establish that the defendant should have known that the eventual drunk driver was underage or already intoxicated. For example, if a reasonable bartender had known that a particular patron was intoxicated, the business can be held liable.
The law provides a special defense for businesses that allegedly sell alcohol to underage customers. Suppose a person who is 21 gives the establishment a fake ID. In that case, the business has a rebuttable presumption that the business did not willfully or knowingly serve alcohol to an underage driver.
Can I Sue the Owner of the Restaurant or Bar?
The answer to this question is that it depends. Owning a restaurant or bar is not enough to prove liability in a dram shop case. Instead, victims need to show that the property owner was directly involved in the sale or service of alcohol to a noticeably intoxicated or underage person whose impaired driving caused a car accident. Merely owning a business, building, or home where alcohol was furnished is not enough to prove liability in a dram shop or social host case.
The Benefits of Working with an Experienced Dram Shop Attorney
Victims need to gather evidence proving that all these elements have been met to succeed in dram shop cases. Pursuing a lawsuit can be overwhelming, especially while coping with significant injuries. However, it is important that you reach out to an attorney after you have received medical attention for your injuries. An attorney can gather evidence, interview witnesses, and obtain police reports quickly before evidence is destroyed or witnesses forget what happened. The sooner you reach out to an experienced attorney, the sooner your attorney can begin protecting your rights.
What to Do After Being Injured in a Dram Shop Accident
The most important thing you should do after being injured in a dram shop accident is to receive medical attention. Make sure you keep all of your medical records organized. Follow your doctor’s orders, take all of your prescribed medication, and keep all of your appointments with your doctor. Doing so will help you show that the accident caused your injuries and that your injuries are as severe as you claim. Do not unintentionally admit fault after the accident due to the shock you are experiencing. You must also not sign any settlement agreements with the insurance company or the potential defendants.
It is understandable to want to settle the case and recover compensation so you can pay your medical bills. However, insurance companies are notorious for offering victims of drunk driving accidents far too little compensation. Do not sign anything until your attorney has reviewed the document. In most cases, an attorney can negotiate a better settlement offer on your behalf.
How Much is My Dram Shop Liability Case Worth?
You may be wondering how much your dram shop liability case is worth and whether it is worth pursuing a lawsuit. Every drunk driving accident case is unique, and the amount of compensation available in the case depends on multiple factors, including the type and severity of the victim’s injuries. If you or your loved one are permanently disabled due to a spinal cord injury, traumatic brain injury, or another severe injury, your claim is likely worth more than if you were mildly or moderately injured.
The best way to determine the estimated value of your claim is to review your case with an experienced attorney. Attorney James Rice has extensive experience pursuing compensation and dram shop lawsuit claims. After discussing your case with him, he will be able to provide you with an estimate of the value of your case. If you decide to pursue a claim, he will work with financial and medical experts who can more accurately determine the full amount of expenses you will incur in the future, including lost income and future medical expenses. Typically, the more severe a person’s injury, the more compensation they can recover.
What if the Bar or Restaurant Does Not Have Liability Insurance?
In Georgia, nightclubs, bars, liquor stores, and restaurants can obtain an alcohol license without proving that they have liability insurance. Even though drivers are all required to carry liability insurance in Georgia, vendors of alcohol are not required to carry insurance. Even if a commercial establishment does carry liability insurance, its policy may contain an exclusion for liquor liability.
In other words, their insurance policy may specifically state that it will not cover injuries caused by accidents from intoxicated patrons. As a result, victims of dram shop accidents will typically need to pursue lawsuits for their damages against the establishment itself, not through an insurance claim.
Two types of compensation are available in personal injury lawsuits — economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages cover easily quantifiable damages, such as medical expenses, lost income, property damage, and other damages that are easy to calculate. Non-economic damages compensate for the pain, suffering, and emotional distress victims suffer due to their injuries. Attorney James Rice knows how to hold businesses and individuals accountable for negligently serving patrons and guests alcohol.
Pursuing a Wrongful Death Lawsuit After a Dram Shop Accident
Unfortunately, many accidents caused by intoxicated drivers are fatal. Suppose you have lost your loved one in an accident caused by an intoxicated driver. In that case, you may be able to pursue a wrongful death lawsuit against the establishment or person who over-served the driver alcohol. Nothing can bring your loved one back, but pursuing a wrongful death claim can help you and your family meet your financial needs going forward.
You can obtain compensation for your loved one’s medical expenses before they passed away, funeral and burial expenses, lost income, property damage, and compensation for your pain and suffering and loss of consortium. As with any type of personal injury lawsuit, time is of the essence. If you wait too long, you may lose the ability to pursue a claim for compensation against the business or person who over-served the driver who killed your loved one.
Discuss Your Case With an Georgia Dram Shop Liability Lawyer
Attorney James Rice is an experienced Georgia dram shop liability attorney. Not all DUI attorneys are familiar with the complexities of Georgia’s dram shop laws. If you or your loved one has been injured by a drunk driver who was over-served alcoholic beverages by another person or company, you will benefit from working with a dram shop liability attorney.
Attorney James Rice has the experience and resources necessary to investigate your claim thoroughly. He will gather evidence showing the defendant over-served the person who caused your injuries. After investigating the total value of your claim, he will negotiate aggressively for the best settlement possible in your case. You only have a limited amount of time to file a dram shop claim in Georgia, so the sooner you speak to an attorney, the better. Contact attorney James Rice today to schedule your complimentary case evaluation and learn more about your legal rights.
Mr. Rice, treated me and my case as if he was dealing with a “colleague” from the moment we met until the end of my case. I’m not a lawyer, nor in anyway, connected professionally to the law field. By “Colleague” I mean “Man, Husband, and Father” with all the responsibilities which correspond to the profession. He told me exactly what to expect with my case. His strategy and timeline to meet those expectations and what he would require of me to bring it all together in my best interest. Straight shooter, who got me back to the profession I love most in this world! Great lawyer who I’m proud to recommend to anyone needing his services.
R. C., Naval Submarine Veteran