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Can You Hold a Business Responsible for Serving a Drunk Driver?

Accidents caused by drunk drivers often cause a number of issues for the people in the other vehicle. First and foremost, there is the physical and emotional trauma that results from a major car crash. Injuries can leave people unable to work for weeks, and financial hardship can result from missed work, vehicle repairs and medical expenses.

Many people experience secondary stress and consequences from a drunk driving crash when they realize their costs stemming from the crash have already exceeded the liability coverage that the other driver had on their vehicle. In some cases, a driver with inadequate insurance may also have inadequate assets to justify taking legal action against the driver directly. While you could pursue a lawsuit, the chances of recovering anything for those efforts may be minimal.

However, in certain circumstances, you may be able to close the gap between the compensation you received and how much you actually need by looking into secondary liability beyond the drunk driver. Restaurants or bars that overserve their patrons or serve alcohol to minors may incur liability for collisions caused by people they sold alcohol to under Missouri dram shop laws. In fact, Attorney William K. Holland successfully sued Sunset Hills-based bar and restaurant Helen Fitzgerald’s on behalf of a St. Louis woman who was hit and killed by a drunk driver seen drinking at the bar earlier in the evening.

What are dram shop laws?

Businesses that sell intoxicating substances to the public have an obligation to put public interest above potential profit. There are limits regarding potential customers. In addition to age limits, which restrict the sale of alcohol to anyone under the age of 21, there are also restrictions on serving more alcohol to someone who is clearly already visibly intoxicated. Sadly, not all establishments respect these rules and follow the law limiting who they can serve.

If you can prove that the bar or restaurant violated Missouri law by serving the driver alcohol, you may be able to hold them financially responsible for the crash that resulted under dram shop laws. Witnesses from the establishment can help you show that the individual was clearly drunk. Security footage can sometimes do the same thing. When a business breaks the law and indirectly causes a drunk driving crash, you may be able to seek financial compensation from them.

Dram shop claims are a way to reinforce alcohol laws

Legal limits on alcohol sales exist in part to protect the public from dangerous personal or business practices. When a business or one of its staff members breaks the law, they may profit from doing so.

Holding a business accountable for bad alcohol policies through a civil lawsuit not only benefits the victim who got injured in the crash but also other people who live in the community. After incurring a financial penalty, the business will be less likely to violate state alcohol laws in the future.


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