Drunk driving crashes are tragic, preventable incidents that can devastate the lives of their victims. Everyone knows that the law prohibits getting behind the wheel while intoxicated by alcohol or impaired by other drugs, but every day, people across Missouri and the United States still drive while drunk.
In most scenarios, the driver who causes the crash is the only one with legal or financial liability for the damages suffered by their victims. After all, no one forces another person to get behind the wheel after having something to drink. However, there are scenarios in which a licensed business contributes to the danger posed by a drunk driver and potentially endangers the public.
Under Missouri law, only in one of two specific scenarios can a victim of a drunk driver hold a licensed business responsible for the damages and injuries caused by that driver.
A business that serves a minor alcohol incurs liability
In Missouri as elsewhere, the legal age for the consumption of alcohol is 21. It is illegal for someone to knowingly provide alcohol to a minor, but people still do it all the time. In fact, individuals working in service positions may decide to intentionally violate alcohol statutes to profit off of an unserved, underage customer base.
Whether the decision to sell a beer to someone under the age of 21 was made by one member of the staff or was a reflection of a general policy to serve minors with whom the business is familiar, if that minor causes a collision that injures or kills someone else, the business may be vulnerable to legal claims under Missouri dram shop laws.
Serving someone visibly drunk is also a source of liability
While it is true that some people can present themselves as sober or nearly sober while dangerously drunk, most people give off clear indicators when they have had too much to drink. Staggering steps, slurred speech, flushed cheeks and many other telltale signs make it clear to service professionals that someone has had too much to drink.
All too often, worried about the impact refusal could have on their tip, waitstaff will knowingly ignore Missouri statutes which prohibit them from serving more alcohol to someone who is already visibly under the influence. Especially in cases where somebody causes a crash with an extremely high BAC after drinking at a restaurant or bar, the victim of the crash may have grounds to pursue a claim against the business that continues to serve someone until they reached a dangerous level of impairment.
Dram shop claims can be particularly important for those with medical costs that exceed the insurance carried by the impaired driver in crashes caused by drunk drivers with no insurance and no assets to make a claim against in court.