Tragically, each year thousands of individuals are killed or catastrophically injured by drunk drivers. The National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration has reported that there is a fatal alcohol-related car accident nearly every hour. This high number of fatal accidents is not surprising when considering the staggering number of drunk drivers on the road. A Philadelphia dram shop lawyer can help injured victims obtain compensation for injuries under Pennsylvania dram shop laws.
According to Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (MADD) “an average drunk driver has driven drunk 80 times before his first arrest” and “50 to 75 percent of convicted drunk drivers continue to drive on a suspended license.” For drivers safely using the road, these statistics can be downright scary. Additionally, if you or a loved one is involved in a collision with a drunk driver, you may be able to file a dram shop case.
Strong Legal Representation for People Injured or Killed by a Drunk Driver
If you were injured, or a family member was killed by a drunk driver, you have a right to legal representation from a Philadelphia dram shop lawyer. Take advantage of it.
The Wieand Law Firm has significant experience representing the victims of drunk driving accidents and their families. Our firm is well-versed in the intricacies of Pennsylvania dram shop law and knows what it takes to successfully prove your dram shop case against a drunk driver in court. If you or a family member was seriously injured by a drunk driver, call attorney Wieand for a free legal consultation at (215) 666-7777.
The Wieand Law Firm handles cases involving:
- Car accidents caused by drunk drivers
- Drunk drivers who seriously injure or kill another person
- Wrongful death caused by a drunk driver
- Drunk driving accidents resulting in the death of a passenger in the vehicle
- Drunk driver vs. pedestrian accidents
Hold Drunk Drivers Responsible for the Harm They Caused
There are several legal options for drunk driving accident victims in terms of seeking redress. First, the drunk driver may be held liable for compensatory damages, or actual damages, caused to the victim. A drunk driver may also be subject to punitive damages above actual losses which are meant to punish reckless, wanton or intentionally harmful acts.
A drunk driver is not the only party potentially liable for injuries that you sustained in a car wreck. A Philadelphia dram shop lawyer may also be able to file a dram shop lawsuit. Under Pennsylvania’s Dram Shop laws, an establishment that serves a visibly intoxicated person, who later gets behind the wheel and causes an accident can be held accountable for the damages caused by the drunk driver.
In Pennsylvania, dram shop laws apply to businesses that serve alcohol, such as bars, restaurants, and casinos. These laws apply to companies that serve private events, as well. For example, a catering company that serves alcoholic beverages at a private residence must follow dram shop laws. An establishment may also be held liable if the bartender or server has violated other liquor laws, such as serving alcohol after hours, serving alcohol to a minor, or selling alcohol without a license.
Pennsylvania dram shop laws also allows victims to hold individuals liable for serving alcohol in their homes to individuals younger than 21 years of age. Contact a Philadelphia dram shop lawyer for assistance in upholding your legal rights to file a lawsuit to hold negligent parties accountable in these cases.
Falls and Fights: Dram Shop Cases are Not Always Car Accidents
People may be surprised to learn that a dram shop case doesn’t have to be an auto accident. When a business serves a visibly intoxicated person who then starts a fight or seriously injures another patron, that establishment may be held liable for the damages caused under the dram shop law. Establishments that serve alcohol have legal responsibilities to customers under dram shop laws. If the person who started or participated in the fight had been served alcohol when noticeably intoxicated, the establishment may be liable to the injured party’s injuries.
Another application of the PA dram shop law can apply if the over-served individual trips, falls, or gets seriously injured. The over-served individual may be able to hold the bar or restaurant liable and initiate a dram shop lawsuit.
Philadelphia dram shop lawyer Brent Wieand of the Wieand Law Firm represents clients in dram shop cases involving assault and battery cases against bars, casinos and concert venues. To discuss a dram shop related injury call (215) 666-7777.
What are the Elements of a Dram Shop Case?
In Fandozzi v. Kelly Hotel, 1998 Pa. Super. 711 A.2d 524, 525-26 (1998) appeal denied, 558 Pa. 601, 735 A2d 1269 (1999), the Court held that a plaintiff must prove two things in order to establish liability against a liquor licensee.
- That an employee or agent of the licensee served alcoholic beverages to a customer while visibly intoxicated; and
- That this violation of the statute proximately caused the plaintiff’s injuries.
It is not sufficient for a plaintiff to establish merely that alcoholic beverages were served to a patron or that the patron was intoxicated at the time he or she caused injury to another. In addition, for an establishment to be held civilly liable evidence must be produced indicating the patron was served alcohol at a time when he or she was visibly intoxicated. Id. at 527.
What is Visibly Intoxicated?
Visible intoxication is the crux of most dram shop cases. However, proving that a bar patron was served while “visibly intoxicated” can be complicated. A Philadelphia dram shop lawyer can understands what is needed to prove visible intoxication and the evidence you’ll need for your case to be successful.
In civil cases, the person filing the lawsuit has the burden of proof. In dram shop cases, this means presenting evidence to prove the person who caused your injuries was exhibiting signs of drunkenness like glassy and bloodshot eyes, loud, obnoxious or aggressive behavior, slurred speech, staggering or falling down.
Other signs that indicate that a person is visibly intoxicated may include:
- Difficulty with fine motor skills, such as fumbling with their wallet
- Incoherent speech
- Difficulty making change
- Sudden changes in mood and behavior
- Drowsiness or falling asleep
- Poor coordination
- Flushed face
- Droopy eyelids
Many of these signs can be observed through video surveillance footage, the testimony of eyewitnesses who were at the bar, or possibly through an expert toxicologist. A Philadelphia dram shop lawyer can work with expert witnesses to testify about blood alcohol content and how an average person would have been behaving.
If you suffered injuries in an accident caused by an intoxicated individual, you may be able to recover a range of damages. Liable parties may include both the intoxicated party who caused the accident and the vendor who served them. Common damages sought in dram shop claims include:
- Medical Expenses
- Rehabilitation costs, such as physical therapy
- Medication costs
- Lost wages
- Future loss of income due to disability
- Property damages
- Pain and Suffering
Can I Sue if I Was Over-Served and Got Injured?
A first-party dram shop case refers to a case in which the injured plaintiff was the party who was overserved alcoholic beverages. Pennsylvania dram shop law does allow for an over-served individual to bring a lawsuit against an establishment. The Pennsylvania Liquor Code makes it illegal for a licensee to serve an individual who is visibly intoxicated. This law is in effect to protect both society in general and also to protect the intoxicated person from their inability to protect themselves. To win a first-party dram shop case, the plaintiff must demonstrate that he was served alcoholic beverages while being visibly intoxicated and that this over-serving cause his injuries.
Frist party dram shop cases can be difficult to win, as juries frequently deem that a person should be responsible for their own actions and hold the individual accountable for those actions rather than the bar or restaurant serving them.
The major exception exists when a first-party dram shop case involves a minor. Juries will often hold a bar or other establishment liable if a minor is served, becomes intoxicated, and suffers an injury.
Demonstrating the establishment’s liability in a dram shop lawsuit may rely on evidence such as:
- The establishment served the patron without verifying proof of age
- The establishment ignored clear signs of intoxication and served an intoxicated individual
- The establishment served alcohol to a patron after closing time
- The establishment over-served a customer
Video footage can be helpful in providing evidence to demonstrate that the individual appeared visibly intoxicated at the time they were served alcoholic beverages. For example, the footage may reveal that the individual was stumbling and losing their balance, a sign of visible intoxication when being served alcohol.
Additionally, video footage can be helpful in identifying eye-witnesses to provide testimony to the intoxicated individuals appearance and behavior. These accounts are often crucial to proving that a visibly intoxicated individual was furnished alcohol. While blood alcohol tests and testimony of testimony of medical experts can help support a case, Pennsylvania appellate courts have held that “visible intoxication” is the standard needed to hold an establishment liable under dram shop laws. This means that eyewitness testimony of how a person looked and behaved at the time they were served will be vital evidence in determining liability.
A Philadelphia dram shop lawyer can use video evidence to create a timeframe to prove a causal link between the individual being overserved and the resulting injurious accident. If the timeframe shows that the person drank their last alcoholic beverage at the licensed establishment shortly before the accident occurred, there may be good circumstantial evidence of the dram shops liability. It may be more difficult to prove a case in which a significant time elapsed between the individual being overserved and the accident.
Can Employers Be Held Liable in Dram Shop Cases?
In general, social hosts in Pennsylvania are not liable for serving alcoholic beverages to adults at a private party when not acting as part of a commercial establishment licensed for providing alcohol. Many employers and business choose to hold social events at licensed establishments. In these cases, the dram shop liability would fall to the licensed establishment but not extend to the employer hosting the party.
When Can a Social Host Be Held Liable in a Dram Shop Case?
A social host is a person who hosts a private party that is not acting as part of establishment that is licensed to sell alcohol. In Pennsylvania, social hosts can avoid liability for claims for guests who are age 21 or older. However, if a social host serves a person under 21 years of age alcohol, they can be held liable for claims per se, whether or not the minor was served to the point of intoxication.
For example, Stacy is a teenager who attends a party at a neighbor’s house is served alcoholic beverages despite the neighbor knowing that she is underaged. Stacy then stumbles and falls off a second-floor balcony. The neighbor hosting the party may be liable as a social host for the teen’s injuries.
Contingency Fee Agreement
If you have suffered a serious injury due to another person’s negligence, medical bills can be overwhelming. Many people hesitate to contact a lawyer for help because they are worried that they cannot afford competent legal counsel.
A Philadelphia dram shop lawyer at the Wieand Law Firm will represent your case using a contingency fee agreement. Under this arrangement, our lawyers represent you case without upfront or monthly attorney fees. We only earn attorney fees if we successfully win money for your claim. This arrangement gives you confidence that our attorneys will work aggressively to represent your claim and get you the best possible compensation.
If you or a loved one sustained serious injuries due to an intoxicated person’s actions, seek help from an attorney. You deserve an aggressive personal injury attorney on your side. Our law firm offers a free, no-obligation consultation for case review and evaluation. This allows us to learn more about your potential claim and help you understand the your legal options.
To speak with experienced Philadelphia dram shop lawyer, call the Wieand Law Firm at (215) 666-7777 or fill out a description of your claim in the online contact form.
*Disclaimer: This article is not legal advice. If you have questions about dram shop case, you should always consult with a dram shop attorney.
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