Drunk driving is a leading cause of serious and fatal crashes in Alabama. According to state crash data released by the NHTSA, there were approximately 246 drunk driving deaths in Alabama during 2018.
When a drunk driver causes someone's injury or death, he or she is held accountable for recklessness. In some cases, other parties may be held accountable for negligently serving alcohol to someone who is noticeably impaired under Alabama's dram shop law.
How do dram shop laws work?
Liquor stores, bartenders, and restaurant servers can be complicit in drunk driving crashes. They should not knowingly serve alcohol to someone who shows obvious and outward signs of alcohol impairment. When a noticeably impaired person gets behind the wheel and causes a serious crash, the party responsible for serving him or her can be punished.
Punitive damages don't necessarily cover economic damages accrued from a crash. These can include medical expenses, lost wages, and car damage. Punitive damages are also intended to send a clear message that actions that endanger the lives of others won't be tolerated. Alabama's dram shop law also applies to parties who serve alcohol to people under the age of 21.
Where Alabama's dram shop law isn't applicable
There are some cases in which a party who serves alcohol to a driver who then causes a serious crash can't be held accountable. For example, an adult driver may purchases alcohol from a liquor store while sober. That same person could consume the purchased alcohol at a friend or relative's house. Then, they could get behind the wheel and cause a serious crash. Since the driver was sober at the time of purchasing alcohol, it wouldn't be the liquor store's fault.
The same can be said about a restaurant server or bartender who serves alcohol to someone who shows no signs of impairment. Things can get further complicated when a patron leaves the bar or restaurant with a blood alcohol concentration level within the legal limit (0.08 percent), but later becomes further impaired at a different location, such as a friend or family member's house.
What can liquor stores, bars and restaurants do to prevent drunk driving accidents?
Liquor stores, bars, restaurants, and other establishments that serve alcohol may not always be able to prevent drunk driving crashes. They are obligated to do their part, including:
- Having strict policies in place that stop employees from serving noticeably impaired patrons
- Complying with the law and not serving alcohol to underage patrons
- Training employees to recognize the signs of impairment and to monitor an establishment for impaired patrons
What can I do if I was injured by a drunk driver?
If you or a loved one was injured in a crash with a drunk driver, you will need an experienced car accident attorney on your side who can launch an investigation. That includes finding out where the at-fault driver came from at the time of the crash. We will also find out who served them alcohol.
The legal team at the Mike Slocumb Law Firm helps clients rebuild their lives after being severely injured in a drunk driving crash. Our lawyers can help clients get the medical care, wage reimbursement, and damage recovery they deserve.
We serve clients in Auburn, Mobile, and Birmingham, Alabama. We also have offices in the District of Columbia; Baltimore, Maryland; Jackson, Mississippi; Charleston, West Virginia; Denver, Colorado; and Dallas, Texas. To schedule your free case evaluation, fill out our online contact form and one of our attorneys will get back to you promptly.