Bars, restaurants, liquor stores or other persons or establishments who are licensed to sell alcohol and do serve alcohol to someone who is visibly intoxicated can be held liable for injuries that result. This is called “Dram Shop Liability”. In most states, people injured by drunk drivers or those hurt in a bar fight can sue the business or individual that over-served the person at fault for the injuries.
Why Do Dram Shop Liability Laws Exist?
Alcohol consumption is linked with inhibited judgment and delayed reactions. When a drunk driver causes an accident, the results are often catastrophic. A victim’s injuries may not be fully compensated by the limits on the driver’s insurance policy. Dram shop liability laws allow an accident victim to pursue compensation from a business that contributed to the intoxication of the person who perpetrated the injurious event e.g. a motor vehicle collision or a bar fight.
Who Makes the Dram Shop Laws?
Dram Shop laws are implemented on the state level. Each state decides who can be held accountable and to what extent. Currently, there are 43 states and the District of Columbia that have Dram Shop liability laws. Each state’s laws are different, so it is important to hire an experienced attorney that knows your state laws. For example, in Missouri a case can only be brought against a vendor “licensed to sell intoxicating liquor by the drink for consumption” such as bars and restaurants. This eliminates convenience stores or shops that sell “packaged alcohol”. Meanwhile, Kansas has no dram shop laws, so the only recourse for an injured party is through a personal injury claim against the impaired individual.
Proving A Dram Shop Liability Case
Missouri dram shop laws only apply to businesses that are selling alcohol to be consumed onsite, not to businesses who sell alcohol packaged to be taken home and consumed. Therefore, grocery and liquor stores are exempt from liability, along with individuals who serve guests at a party or private event. However, it is important to note, hosts can have criminal charges brought against them for serving alcohol to a minor.
Dram shop liability cases can be difficult to prove. There are two things that must be proven.
1. The seller knew or should have known that intoxicating liquor was served to a person under the age of twenty-one years or knowingly served intoxicating liquor to a visibly intoxicated person.
2. The alcohol served by the business or individual proximately caused the events ultimately causing the injuries.
Professional investigators and accident reconstruction specialists will be needed to determine the exact sequence of events, and how a negligent driver or assailant became drunk. Once it is proven that the over-serving of alcohol caused your injuries, a lawyer can take aggressive action against everyone whose actions or inactions may have contributed to those injuries.
It may also be necessary to hire a toxicology expert to review the bar patron’s medical records and alcohol screening so it can be determined how much the patron had been served and whether he or she would have been visibly intoxicated.
Damages in Missouri and Kansas Alcohol-Related Cases
Civil damages are awarded to an injured individual to compensate them for the losses they have suffered due to an injury. Generally, an injured party can be compensated for:
· Medical Bills
· Lost wages
· Costs to repair damaged property · Loss of consortium (for the injured party’s spouse)
· Pain and suffering
An injured individual may only receive damages in a dram shop liability claim if they are able to provide “clear and convincing evidence”.
It is important to note this is a higher standard of proof than a general personal injury claim of “preponderance of the evidence”. Which means the plaintiff must prove is the facts are more likely to have happened than not. In other words, 51% or greater.
Time Limits in Missouri & Kansas
All states, including Missouri and Kansas, have a statute of limitations that set a time limit as to when a dram shop liability or other personal injury claim must be filed in civil court. Missouri requires both dram shop liability and personal injury cases be filed within five years of the date of injury. Kansas does not have dram shop laws so all cases must be filed within the personal injury statute of limitation requirements, which is within two years of the date of injury.
There are a few exceptions to these rules, so it is important you contact an attorney as soon as possible after suffering an injury to make sure your rights are protected.