An obviously inebriated man leaves a bar, hops into his car and gets into a horrific auto accident that results in a fatality. Not only is the man who caused the accident liable, but the bar that served him drinks may be held accountable for the tragic death.
This is due to dram shop legislation, which was established to make bars, taverns and other proprietors of alcoholic beverages take greater responsibility for the actions of drunken clientele. The term dram shop is derived from a Scottish-Gaelic term which refers to a measurement of drink (roughly 1/8 of an ounce or 60 grains). Although a dram can also be attributed to non alcoholic of drinks, the “dram” measurement is largely associated with ales and spirits.
To date, the dram is still related to alcohol and was the decided moniker when the law was set into place.
Although some argue that it isn’t fair to hold a business criminally liable for the actions of adult individuals, the fact remains that drunks cannot make rational decisions. Like any other type of impaired citizen, drunks need to be protected from themselves. Besides, businesses that ply even willing patrons with alcoholic drinks have a legal and moral obligation to make sure their customers do not get behind the wheel of a car when drunk.
If they do, they should accept partial responsibility when the individual hurts or kills another in a DUI related accident.
Dram shop lawscan become very specific when it comes to legal liability and may include even social situations, like parties and get togethers. For instance, if you host a party where drinks are served and allow an obviously drunk guest to leave, then you can be held criminally responsible should they get into a car accident.
Likewise, when an individual that indulged in a bar crawl or similar event ends up in a DUI related wreck, all participating bars and taverns that served the person drinks can also acquire criminal liability. In such cases, fault is determined using comparative negligence.
For example, if one bar only served the man a single drink while another served ten, the latter establishment would have greater culpability than the former.
All of this is to ensure that businesses become more vigilant in preventing impaired individuals from going out into the streets and hurting others.
When people who have lost a loved one look for answers they wish to ensure that all those who are responsible for their valued family member’s wrongful death pay the price. It is not about vengeance but rather, justice. Society functions best when people understand that we have a responsibility to look out for fellow human beings. Drunk individuals cannot make sound decision and those who serve drinks know that and should do what they can to help, even if it means calling the police.
Dram shop laws also enables surviving family members to not only pursue all responsible parties so they can receive compensation commiserate with their loss. This is especially important if the deceased individual was a head of household wage earner.
If you have lost a loved one because of the gross negligence of a bar or similar type of business, you have rights! Contact a reputable wrongful death attorney to inquire about a dram shop lawsuit and learn your options. We are here to help and can answer any and all questions you have. California Dram shop laws are complex and it is critical that you have a law firm examine your potential case.