Were you or your family member recently injured in a drunk driving accident? Did the drunk driver recently leave a bar where he or she was served alcohol? If so, you may be able to hold the bar responsible for your accident-related injuries and expenses. This could be a very important point. The actual driver in the case may have a limited amount of funds to cover your expenses, even if you do win the lawsuit.
However, by adding the establishment onto the suit, you may stand a better chance of collecting on any judgement or negotiated settlement. Here are three questions you should ask before pursuing compensation from an alcohol-serving establishment:
Does your state have a dram shop law and, if so, what is the threshold for negligence? Laws that allow a plaintiff to sue an alcohol-serving establishment are called dram shop laws. Many, but not all, states have some type of such law in place. The standard for negligence on the part of the bar can vary from state-to-state. Before pursuing your lawsuit, you'll need to know what your state's standard is and whether you can prove that the bar in question met that standard.
For example, knowingly serving a minor or failing to ask for identification could be considered negligence. So could serving someone who was already intoxicated or knowingly serving them enough alcohol to make them intoxicated. Again, the standard will largely depend on your state's laws. Some are broad enough that proving negligence isn't difficult. Others have very narrow definitions of negligence, making proof a much more difficult task.
Does your state have a cap on damages? Again, states vary widely on how much compensation you can receive from the bar. Some states have caps that limit the amount of liability the bar can have for the patron's actions. Other states have no caps on liability and compensation. Knowing this limit in advance will help you better prepare for settlement negotiations and trial.
What's the statute of limitations? Some states also have statute of limitations in place with regard to dram shop laws. In some cases, you may have to provide written notice to the bar that you are planning on filing a suit. You may only have several months to do this, depending on your state. In other states, you have a period of a few years after the accident in which to file your suit. Should you fail to meet your state's dram shop law statute of limitations, you may not be able to include the bar in the suit.
For more information, contact a personal injury attorney in your area (such as Frank L. Slaughter Jr. PC or another practitioner). They can help you determine which parties may be liable in your case.