What is Dram Shop Liability and How Does it Affect Your Auto Accident Case?

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Posted by Ben Long

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If you have been injured in a car accident where the other driver was drunk, you may be wondering what your next steps should be.  Perhaps you have been doing some research online and you came across the phrase “dram shop.”

What Does Dram Shop Liability Mean?

“Dram shop” liability refers to the legal liability of bars, restaurants, sports stadiums, and other commercial establishments that serve alcoholic beverages.  Establishments that sell and serve alcohol have a legal duty to avoid over-serving a patron.  If a person continues to be served alcohol past the point of intoxication at a bar in Waterloo, Davenport, or any other Iowa town, then does something that injures or kills another person (like driving while intoxicated or starting a fight), the bar can be held legally responsible for these actions.  The injured person is legally allowed to bring a lawsuit against the establishment that over-served the intoxicated person. The intoxicated person pays first, and the establishment has to pay for any additional medical expenses or other damages.

The phrase “dram shop” refers to any establishment where alcohol was sold by the “dram,” which was a spoonful of liquid. Although the laws vary between states, the majority of the U.S., including Iowa, has dram shop acts or court rulings that hold sellers of alcohol responsible for their patrons’ actions.

This means you may be able to bring a lawsuit not only against the person who injured you, but the bar or restaurant where that person was served too much alcohol. In Iowa, the rules for these types of cases are very specific and harsh. There are strict deadlines that can be very short and if not met  can end your legal case.

What Dram Shop Liability Means For Your Case

There are two ways that an establishment can be held responsible for your auto accident or other injuries, according to Iowa law.  Either one of these options can be true for them to be held liable:

  1. The person was drunk and the establishment continued to serve them alcohol
  2. The establishment served enough alcohol to the person that they should have known the person would be drunk from the amount served

If you prove the establishment over-served a person, you will also have to prove that the alcohol actually caused the injury.  Typically, notice of the dram shop claim has to be provided to the right parties within just a few months of the injury.  A knowledgeable auto accident attorney will help you determine if your auto accident case has a dram shop law component.

To learn more about dram shop liability, call us today at 1-319-774-1542.

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