It hardly will come as a surprise that alcohol and safety do not mix. When people drink too much, their judgment is impaired. Most of the time, this impaired too much pizza or making another minor decision. Other times, impaired judgment can lead to decisions that have dire consequences.
40,000 deaths per year are attributed to drunk driving in the United States, and the fatalities are not just the drunk drivers. If you were injured by a drunk driver, obviously that person is responsible for the injury. But, there might also be more people who contributed to the collision. A knowledgeable attorney will explore what is called “dramshop liability”. In short, if a restaurant or bar over serves someone who ends up hurting someone else, that establishment might also be liable.Obligations of a Liquor Licensee
Restaurants and bars that serve alcohol can be held liable to victims of the bar served a visibly intoxicated patron who then went on to hurt someone else. This often happens when someone is seriously or even fatally injured by a drunk driver that does not have enough insurance to cover the injuries. A thorough attorney will look to see whether liability for your damage truly rests only with that other driver.
Bars have a duty of care that extends to those hurt by their inebriated customers. But the law does not go as far as the public may think. If a bartender serves the final drink that brings the customer to a level of visible intoxication, that does not necessarily make the bar liable. Service of alcohol needs to occur after the patron has become visibly drunk. How do you prove that occurred?Proving Visible Intoxication
Of course, the police are often involved in these collisions and do thorough investigations. They’ll speak to the drunk driver, they will perform field sobriety tests, and they will also try to get a blood alcohol reading. However, that’s usually not enough to prove these cases.
Sometimes, there are friends or acquaintances who can describe the drunk driver’s behavior before he or she got behind the wheel. It is possible, although unlikely, that the server or bartender will acknowledge visible signs of intoxication. There may be receipts or credit card transactions to document the amount spent on drinks. There may be surveillance video or social media posts to show the patron’s behavior. An experienced lawyer knows how to look for this evidence.
An attorney handling a dramshop case needs to understand the physiological effects of alcohol ingestion over time, and the time it takes for the body to eliminate alcohol. These factors change the blood alcohol reading. The breathalyzer result at the police station will not be the same as the reading when the customer was served.
A lawyer may hire a toxicologist to determine blood alcohol levels when drinks were being served, and to describe what visible behavior was probable at that level. We are familiar with the 0.08 standard for establishing operating under the influence, but a significantly higher reading is needed to establish visible intoxication for dramshop liability purposes.There May Be Other Avenues of Recovery
The negligent drunk driver may not have been at a bar. He or she may have been underage and bought beer at a liquor shop or he or she may have been at a private party. These situations also open up possibilities for exploration as to whether the drinker should alone be held responsible. In fact, the drunk driver may end up being the injured person, and there may well be circumstances when the drinker deserves recovery against the person or entity that fed his or her alcohol problem.We Have the Expertise to Pursue Uncommon Remedies
At Marcotte Law Firm, we have a thorough knowledge of legal standards under dramshop law and social host liability. We have gahered evidence showing the intoxicated tortfeasor’s demeanor and behavior. We have worked extensively with toxicologists and developed a thorough knowledge of the science behind determining blood alcohol levels, determining what it takes to reach those levels, and establishing the outward signs of intoxication that flow from these levels. We will explore and pursue every available route to recovery for your injuries.
If you’ve been injured by a drunk driver and think that someone else might also be responsible, contact the lawyers at Marcotte Law Firm for a free consultation.