The auto accidents resulting from drunk drivers are some of the most deadly and severe encountered on the road. This is often due to the fact that even a small amount of alcohol can significantly impair the judgment of a driver. Once their normal judgment and driving instincts are impaired, drivers often speed and make dangerous maneuvers that can easily result in death, either their own or that of innocent victims.
When such tragic events take place, victims and their loved ones are often left seeking justice. In many instances, it is possible to seek damages from the establishment whether it be a bar, restaurant, club, or another alcohol-serving locale.
Our Pennsylvania auto accident attorneys continue on this topic below.
The Numbers: Drunk Drivers in PA
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.
Pennsylvania Dram Shop Laws
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 establishments that served alcohol to the visibly intoxicated person. Claims of this nature fall under what’s known as dram shop law.
While each case will depend significantly on the 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 Are PA’s Dram Shop Laws?
Dram shop law gets its name from a small unit of alcohol, called a “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?
Contrary to what you may think, there is not an official training or course that a bartender or server must pass to prove that they can tell when a patron has had “one too many.” However, dram shop law in Pennsylvania does establish a relatively objective baseline known as visible intoxication.
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
For most individuals, it is not necessary to have worked as a bartender to recognize when someone is drunk. Moreover, since servers tend to be surrounded by patrons who consume alcohol, there is some expectation that they be able to assert when an individual is intoxicated.
However, various of the above signs must be displayed by an intoxicated individual for a dram shop case to have grounds on which to stand. In many instances, closed-circuit TV recordings from locales are used as evidence to support the claim that a patron was visibly intoxicated before they drove away.
Does Dram Shop Law Apply When Alcohol Is Served to a Minor?
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 Drinking Too Much Alcohol?
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?
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?
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 By A Drunk Driver?
If you were injured in a drunk driving accident, and whether you were the driver at fault or not, it is important that you consult with an attorney immediately. You may have a dram shop claim as well as a claim against the drunk driver but as mentioned above, there are time limits that can prevent you from winning compensation even if you have a valid claim.
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, medical expenses, and more.
Contact us today to learn more about your legal options in a free legal consultation. Moreover, if you chose to work with our experienced legal team, we will represent you on a contingency fee basis. This means that if we are not able to secure compensation on your behalf, you will not owe us any fees whatsoever,