Can Bars Be Liable for Drunk Driving Accidents?

Inside any bar, restaurant, or liquor store, you’ll find a warning sign which says that intoxicated patrons won’t be sold alcohol. If you’ve ever wondered about the reasoning behind this ubiquitous policy, the answer can be summed up in three words: dram shop liability. The word “dram” comes from old English slang for spoonfuls of gin and refers to establishments that sell alcohol. As Philadelphia car accident lawyer Brent Wieand will explain in this article, establishments that sell or serve alcohol risk being held responsible if they sell alcohol to an intoxicated customer who later causes a crash or collision.

If you were hit by a drunk driver in Pennsylvania, or if an intoxicated person assaulted you, dram shop liability could play an important role in your personal injury case. In many cases, the drunk driver’s insurance policy may be insufficient to pay for damages and injuries caused in a serious auto accident. By holding the dram shop accountable for serving an intoxicated individual, the victim may find an extra layer of insurance coverage to pay for their losses caused by a drunk driver.

leased car accident

What is PA Dram Shop Law?

In order to understand dram shop liability in Pennsylvania, one must look to the relevant statutes. One of these statutes is 47 P.S. § 4-493, part of the state Liquor Code, which makes it unlawful to sell or even allow the sale of alcohol to:

  • Any person who is “visibly intoxicated.”
  • Any minors, regardless of whether they are sober or intoxicated.
    • Under the National Minimum Drinking Age Act of 1984, the legal drinking age is 21 years old in all 50 states.

In addition, bars and restaurants can be held liable for serving or selling alcohol to an “insane person” a “habitual drunkard.” Further, there is no absolutely no situation in which a liquor store can sell alcohol to minors or intoxicated customers without risking assumption of liability for an accident or injury.

Statutes 47 P.S. § 4-493 and 47 P.S. § 4-493 specifically address the liability of licensees (or establishments which are licensed to sell alcohol.) Under these statutes, licensees can be liable to third persons on account of damages inflicted upon them off of the licensed premises by customers of the licensee if the alcohol was sold to a “visibly intoxicated” person.

Some common signs of visible intoxication include bloodshot eyes, slurred speech, aggressive or belligerent behavior and decreased motor skills. Persons that serve liquor in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania are required to be aware of common signs of intoxication, and are prohibited from serving persons who exhibit these symptoms.

Although people usually go to bars to have a good time, it must be remembered that serving alcohol is serious business and that the failure to do so responsibly can have drastic consequences. Pennsylvania liquor laws make it amply clear that liquor stores, bars, and restaurants may be deemed partly at fault if a drunk patron causes an automotive accident.

Can I Sue the Bar, Restaurant, or Liquor Store if I Was Injured by a Drunk Person?

Dram shop law usually comes up in the context of drunk driving accidents, which sadly caused 333 deaths in Pennsylvania last year, according to this 2014 PennDOT crash report. However, it may also arise in a situation where an extremely intoxicated person becomes belligerent and assaults somebody. If a person gets into a car accident caused by a drunk driver, or is physically attacked by a drunk person, he or she could potentially sue the liquor store, bar, or restaurant.

drinking and driving

If you were injured by a drunk driver in Philadelphia or the surrounding area, you should have the situation investigated by an aggressive, experienced personal injury attorney, like Brent Wieand. Depending on the details of what happened, it may be possible for you to recover compensation, which can help to take care of your medical bills, lost earnings, damage to your vehicle, and other expenses caused by your accident.

To start discussing your case in a free, completely confidential legal consultation, call Pennsylvania dram shop lawyer Brent Wieand right away at (888) 789-3161. You will not be charged any fees unless Brent wins compensation for you, and your information will always be kept confidential.
***Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes. It is not legal advice and should not be used as legal advice.***

Schedule free consultation
Get Started Today!