Dram shop laws relate to injuries or damages that are caused by people who have been over-served alcohol at a bar, restaurant or other type of establishment. These laws give the victims of alcohol-related incidents, as well as their families, the ability to hold the business that served the perpetrator accountable.

Often times, in a drunk driving accident, the intoxicated driver’s insurance doesn’t adequately cover full damages to the injured party. This is often when you will see dram shop laws called upon. In circumstances like this, the injured party may sue the drunk individual, the establishment at which they drank, and sometimes even the alcohol retailer. This gives the victim the ability to be made financially whole again.

Dram shop laws are established at the state level, which means they vary quite a bit from state to state. Even so, almost all states have some sort of dram shop law in place. Some states’ dram shop laws only apply when a minor is involved, while others are much more strict and include circumstances like when someone buys alcohol for a third party and the third party causes an accident.

The Main Types of Dram Shop Cases

There are two common types of dram shop cases: first-party dram shop cases and third-party dram shop cases. A first-party dram shop case is the less common of the two and occurs when the injured party is the person who was sold alcohol. These are very difficult cases to win, since many judges consider the person imbibing alcohol to be responsible for their own actions in an accident. Plus in Washington, if the jury finds that the individual who was drinking was more than 50% at fault, there is a complete bar to recovery. With that being said, if a minor is injured due to being served alcohol, the place of business in which they received the alcohol will often be held liable.

Third-party dram shop cases are much more common. These laws apply when you are a victim of an accident that was caused by a drunk person, and you hold the establishment where they drank the alcohol partially responsible. A common example of this is in a drunk driving accident, in which the victim or the victim’s family may sue the bar or provider for over-serving the drunk party.

Proving Liability in Dram Shop Cases

To prove liability in dram shop cases, there must be evidence that the person who was serving alcohol, or the establishment it was served in, was negligent. This most often occurs when an already visibly intoxicated person is over served alcohol, or the person in question has notoriously intemperate habits. The latter group includes people who have a history of overly drunken behavior. Negligence can also be proven if the person served alcohol was a minor. In the state of Washington, it’s illegal to serve alcohol to anyone who is under 21 years of age.

The statute of limitations for dram shop cases is 3 years from the date of the accident.

Contact an Experienced Dram Shop Law Attorney for Assistance

If you or a loved one were injured due to someone else’s carelessness while they were intoxicated, contact Herschensohn Law PLLC. We take personal injury cases and will fight aggressively on your behalf so that you receive the compensation you truly deserve. Dram shop cases can be complicated, but with an experienced attorney on your side, you’re more likely to see a favorable outcome with your case. Contact us today at (206) 588-4344.

Additional Reading:

Wrongful Death

Verdicts and Settlements