Can I Sue the Bar, Restaurant, or Club That Served the Alcohol to a Drunk Driver?
Pennsylvania State Police recently announced that troopers investigated 5,180 DUI-related crashes in 2017, up 14 percent from 4,520 DUI-related crashes in 2016. The statistics don’t include DUI investigations by other Pennsylvania law enforcement agencies.
In 2017, state troopers arrested 19,963 drivers for DUI. In 2016, the number was 19,518. Again, the numbers don’t account for all DUI arrests in the state.
When intoxicated drivers get behind the wheel, the predictable outcome is serious ― often catastrophic ― injuries to innocent bystanders. In addition to legal claims against the drunk driver, victims in Pennsylvania may also have a claim against the bar, restaurant, club, or other establishment that served alcohol to the visibly intoxicated person. That claim falls under what’s called dram shop law.
While each case will depend significantly on its individual facts and circumstances, below are answers to common questions DUI victims, and other injured people, ask about suing for personal injuries under Pennsylvania’s dram shop law.
What Is Dram Shop Law?
Dram shop law gets its name from a small unit of alcohol, called dram. Under Pennsylvania’s dram shop law, an establishment that serves alcohol to a visibly intoxicated person may be held legally liable if that service directly leads to bodily injuries.
How Is It Determined If a Customer Is Visibly Intoxicated?
Visible signs of intoxication can include:
- Thick, slurred speech
- Bloodshot, glassy, or watery eyes
- Swaying, staggering, and stumbling
- Loud, boisterous behavior
- Slowed response to questions
- Drowsiness or falling asleep
- Can’t find mouth with glass
Does Dram Shop Law Apply When Alcohol Is Served to a Minor?
Yes. In Pennsylvania, it is illegal for the holder of a liquor license to serve a minor (under age 21). When a minor who is unlawfully served alcohol injures someone, the establishment that served the minor may be held legally responsible for the victim’s injuries. This is true even if the minor was not visibly intoxicated when served.
Can I Sue If I Injure Myself After Consuming Too Much Alcohol?
Yes. If a bar, restaurant, club, or other establishment continues to sell alcohol to you when you are visibly intoxicated, you may have grounds for a dram shop lawsuit if you injure yourself.
Is an Auto Accident the Only Basis for a Dram Shop Lawsuit?
No. Although dram shop lawsuits frequently arise from DUI crashes, they may be filed in connection with other incidents relating to excessive alcohol consumption, including drunken brawls and fights, and trip-and-fall accidents.
Do All States Have the Same Dram Shop Law as Pennsylvania?
No. Dram shop laws vary from state-to-state, and some states do not recognize dram shop claims at all. Note that neighboring Delaware does not recognize dram shop liability. However, as the facts and circumstances of each case differ, it is always important to consult with an attorney. If a driver is served too much alcohol in Pennsylvania and causes an accident in Delaware, there may be a valid dram shop case in Pennsylvania.
How Long Do I Have to File a Dram Shop Lawsuit in Pennsylvania?
In Pennsylvania, there is a two-year period, called a statute of limitations, for filing a dram shop lawsuit. This means that a victim has two years from the date of injury to bring a lawsuit. An exception to this rule occurs if the victim is a minor (under age 18). Minors have until their 20th birthday to file suit.
What Should I Do If I Have Been Injured in a DUI Accident?
It is important that you consult with an attorney immediately as you may have a dram shop claim as well as a claim against the drunk driver. For more than 30 years, the lawyers at Schuster Law have been pursuing dram shop lawsuits for victims and their families. The lawsuits seek damages for pain and suffering, loss of life’s pleasures, lost wages, and medical expenses.