Last Update: 06/18/18
As we all know, drunk drivers cause car accidents and those car crashes often result in serious injuries or even death for innocent people who are the victims of the illegally intoxicated driver. Car accident claims, those based upon drunk drivers and lawsuits filed to obtain accident damages to cover things like medical expenses, funeral expenses, lost wages, and more, are some of the most tragic cases that a personal injury lawyer sees.
However, these drunk driving car accident cases are even more horrendous when the DUI driver, who was obviously drunk and not able to drive, was last seen at a bar or club partying shortly before the accident.
Which is why the State of Florida and other states across the country have passed dram shop laws.
What is a Dram Shop Law? How Does It Help in a Drunk Driving Car Crash Case?
Dram shop laws are statutes passed by state legislatures that allow those victims of drunk driver car accidents to file a civil lawsuit (even though they are a crime victim of a DUI driver) seeking civil money damages against not only the driver but also against those who profited from the driver getting drunk. Some states extend this even further and include “social hosts” in their dram shop liability coverage. (For a state-by-state itemization of dram shop laws, check out Mothers Against Drunk Drivers’ research here.)
In other words, the seller of the alcoholic beverages to that driver can be held legally responsible for the drunk driving accident damages. That defendant can be a Florida bar, a Florida nightclub, a Florida liquor store, a Florida hotel, a Florida restaurant, or other establishment that sells alcoholic beverages and drinks for a profit to its customers.
Florida’s Dram Shop Law
A person who sells or furnishes alcoholic beverages to a person of lawful drinking age shall not thereby become liable for injury or damage caused by or resulting from the intoxication of such person, except that a person who willfully and unlawfully sells or furnishes alcoholic beverages to a person who is not of lawful drinking age or who knowingly serves a person habitually addicted to the use of any or all alcoholic beverages may become liable for injury or damage caused by or resulting from the intoxication of such minor or person.
Under Florida’s dram shop law, the drunk driver crash victim as plaintiff must prove their case with sufficient evidence that (1) the driver was a known drinker or drunk (just serving someone a beer or cocktail is not enough here); unless (2) the drunk driver is under the legal Florida drinking age. If the defendant served alcoholic beverages to an underage customer, then they are held strictly liable for whatever accident that the driver caused without need for “habitual” use evidence.
Additionally, Florida’s drunk driver dram shop law applies only to drinks that have been sold to drink right then — in a glass, mug, bottle, whatever. It does not apply to a liquor store or grocery, for example, that sells a 12-pack of beer or any other alcoholic beverage that is packaged in a closed container and not obviously intended to immediately imbibe.
[Note: As to whether or not these Dram Shop Laws help to combat alcohol abuse, see JF Mosher – Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, 1979, published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.]
What Should You Do Now?
A good piece of advice if you have been harmed in a car accident due to a drunk driver, is to speak with an experienced personal injury lawyer before you file a claim to learn about some of the issues that can arise with these claims, including the type of evidence needed to prove a claim and the type and amount of damages you can recover. Most personal injury lawyers, like Alan Sackrin, will offer a free initial consultation (over the phone or in person) to answer your questions.
- Are You Responsible for Your Party Guests?: Social Host Liability for Accidents Under Florida Law
- 12 Common Car Accident Lawsuits in Florida
Do you have questions or comments? Then please feel free to send Alan an email or call him now at (954) 458-8655.