The new year begins at the end of this week, and many people will be out reveling and ringing it in. Some may stay at home, but other will have a night out on then town. Those celebrating are not the only ones that need to be careful. If you are a bar or restaurant owner, bartender, or server, be vigilant when serving alcohol. You can be liable of you serve a minor or over-serve an overtly drunk individual. Under dram shop law, bar owners, servers, and retail stores can be held liable if they sell alcohol to a minor or someone who is already drunk, and that person in turn injures or kills a third party due to driving drunk or other by other means (such as assaults). If the wounded party provides evidence that the serving or selling of the alcohol was the proximate cause of their injuries, they may be entitled to compensation.
Dram Shop law were put into place to protect the public from the irresponsible selling of alcohol to minors or discernibly intoxicated patrons.
Violations may include:
Selling alcohol to a minor
Over service of alcohol
Selling alcohol without checking ID
Selling alcohol without a license
Selling alcohol after hours
There are many ways to avoid becoming the defendant on the end of a dram shop claim.
If unsure about a patron’s age, check ID. This will prevent serving liquor to a minor.
Don’t be afraid to cut someone off. It’s not only a right, but a duty to stop serving a visibly intoxicated customer.
Avoid overcrowding. Capacity is not just a number – overcrowding can lead to fights among other safety hazards.
Know the signs of intoxication. Not sure what they are? The State of Oregon Liquor Control Commission created a comprehensive list. View it here.
Don’t serve alcohol outside of legal sales hours. In Washington, liquor sales are allowed from 6 A.M. to 2 A.M. For more info, Wikipedia has a detailed list of liquor law by state.
Don’t think it can’t happen to you. I’ve helped many clients with dram shop claims. Whether in a car accident or assaulted by an intoxicated individual, I’ve proven liquor licensee liability. Err on the side of caution when serving alcohol this weekend. You might save your business, your job, or even save a life.
New Year’s Eve is one of the worst days of the year for alcohol related car crashes and deaths. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) on average, 130 deaths take place on New Year’s Eve.
Here are some tips regarding staying safe on New Years:
Designate a sober driver.
Save the number of a local cab service in your phone prior to heading out.
Hire a shuttle or limousine service to transport you and your friends to and from your event.
Don’t assume walking is a safe option. New Years has the highest death rate of pedestrians than any other day of the year. The walker is drunk in over a third of pedestrian fatalities. Alcohol impairs your ability to walk and navigate, especially in the dark. If you must walk:
As silly as it sounds, have a designated walker.
Stay on the sidewalk. If no sidewalk is available, walk facing traffic
If you plan ahead of time, wear bright colored clothing and carry a flashlight to be more visible to drivers.
Last night a 46-year-old husband and father was killed by a drunk driver in Puyallup. We already know, but every fatality serves as a reminder of the dangers of drinking and driving.
Don’t forget, in Washington State (and many others), bartenders and store clerks are legally bound to refuse service to patrons who are visibly intoxicated or under the legal drinking age. An establishment can be held responsible if it serves alcohol to a minor, or someone who is clearly drunk, and that person then causes injury or death to a third party as a result of or their intoxication.
Drunk driving accidents don’t always result in a legal claim. When in doubt, talk to an attorney. A lawyer skilled at dram shop cases can offer advice and will know if there is a potential claim.
If you don’t know what “dram shop” law means, you’re probably not alone. The word “dram” originates from 18th century England when alcohol in drinking establishments was sold by the “dram”, a small unit of liquid. Now, “Dram Shop” is a legal term referring to liquor stores, bars, convenience stores and other places where alcoholic beverages are sold. Dram Shop law in intended to protect the public from businesses that negligently sell alcohol to minors or visibly intoxicated patrons.
If a dram shop does sell alcohol to a minor or someone already drunk, and in turn, that person goes and injures or kills a third party, or themselves, the business can be held responsible. It doesn’t have to be the result of a drunk driving accident. The injury can be caused by other situations, such as the intoxicated individual assaulting another. Dram shop cases are sometimes hard to prove, as the victim provide evidence that the serving or selling of the alcohol was the proximate cause of their injuries. If it can be proven, he or she is entitled to compensation.
If you’ve been injured by someone who was intoxicated or felt your own injury resulted from being over-served alcohol in an establishment, consider John Messina. He has helped many clients injured as a result of the over service of alcohol. Let’s discuss your legal rights over a free consultation.