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Dram Shop Liability for Drunk Drivers

What is Dram Shop liability?

Georgia law allows victims of car accidents to recover from bars, restaurants, or even party hosts who serve alcohol to drunk drivers or underage drivers under a law that is commonly known as “Dram Shop” liability.  The Georgia law can be found at O.C.G.A. Section 51-1-40.

The Dram Shop Law in Georgia

Pursuant to the Georgia statute, a victim of a car accident seeking to recover from a bar, restaurant or party host for over serving a drunk driver who subsequently causes an automobile wreck must prove the following:

1.  That the bar, restaurant or social host willfully, knowingly, and unlawfully sold or provided or served alcohol to a person who is not old enough to drink; or, knowingly sold or provided or served alcohol to a person who is old enough to drink but is noticeably intoxicated;

2.  That the bar, restaurant, or social host knew that the minor or intoxicated person would be driving a vehicle soon; and,

3.  That the sale, furnishing or serving of the alcohol proximately caused the victim’s injuries or damages.

Just like any tort claim or claim based on negligence in Georgia, Dram Shop liability is founded upon the theory that a bar, restaurant or social host has a duty of care to act reasonably to prevent drunk drivers from injuring third persons.

Of course, bars, restaurants, and other social hosts are not automatically on the hook for Dram Shop liability, nor do they have the duty to actually prevent the drunk driver from driving.  The responsibility is to not knowingly (actually knowing or even if the server SHOULD have known the person was drunk) serve or sell or furnish alcohol to a clearly intoxicated individual who is about to drive; that is, if a bar or restaurant or a social host sees that a drunk person (or an underage drinker), they should stop serving drinks to that person, but are not responsible for forcibly preventing the person from driving.

How to Prove Liability

So proving Dram Shop liability would likely require eye witness testimony where perhaps another patron sees a bartender serve a clearly intoxicated individual a drink, and testimony about what happened throughout the time leading up to the car accident.  Or, there could be video footage of the incident where a bar or restaurant served a clearly drunk individual.  Further, the claimant would have to prove that the drunk driver was actually drunk; that can be done with expert testimony or with a blood alcohol test.

What Dram Shop Liability Means for Injured Victims

The Georgia Dram Shop laws provide another means by which victims of car accidents caused by drunk drivers can recover compensation for serious injuries.  Normally, when a drunk driver or any negligent driver causes a car accident in Georgia, the injured victim has to pursue the at-fault driver via his/her automobile insurance or other insurance policies.  Most individuals have minimal coverage for bodily injuries under their automobile insurance policies that would be unlikely to provide enough compensation to victims who suffer serious injuries or death.  Thus, the Georgia Dram Shop laws open up liability to businesses that could have additional insurance coverage with which to compensate victims.

As finding available insurance coverage for an individual injured in a car wreck in Georgia can be complicated, please call us at 404-593-2620 to speak to an attorney if you or a family member are facing these difficult issues.