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Suing a Bar for Your Drunk Driving Accident

Drunk driving accidents often happen at high speeds and late at night when visibility is low. If you were struck as a motorist or pedestrian, you can suffer horrifying injuries. Many drunk driving accident victims have medical bills which far exceed the at-fault driver’ insurance. Indeed, they call us worried about how they will cover their expenses now that they are too hurt to work.

We are happy to tell these victims that they might be able to sue the bar or restaurant which served alcohol to the drunk driver. With this type of lawsuit, we can increase the amount of compensation available so that you can fully pay your bill and move on with your life.

Missouri’s Law

Our state’s dram shop law is located at Section 537.053 of the state’s statutes. It’s called “dram shop” because a “dram” was a measure of alcohol (roughly three-quarters of a teaspoon). A dram shop served alcohol and included taverns, bars, and pubs, among others.

This law allows accident victims to sue business establishments which are licensed to serve alcohol for consumption on the premises. It does not apply to grocery stores or other businesses which sell in bulk.

This distinction makes sense. A bar or nightclub can observe customers and should be aware when they are so drunk they should no longer be served. By contrast, a grocery store would have no idea whether a person buying four six-packs will drink them all until they reach an inebriated state.

The law also does not apply to social hosts who serve a minor or overserve an adult. Those folks could have criminal liability in certain situations, but the purpose of a dram shop law is to allow victims to receive civil damages.

What You Need to Prove

We can help our clients hold a commercial establishment liable for their drunk driving accident if we can prove by clear and convincing evidence the seller:

  • Knowingly served liquor to someone who was visibly intoxicated, or
  • Knew (or should have known) they were serving liquor to someone under 21

If we can prove either and the customer goes on to commit a crash, we can sue the establishment for compensation. Because businesses usually have substantial insurance policies, this is a good way to grow the pot of compensation available to our clients.

When Is a Customer “Visibly Intoxicated”?

Unless the driver was a minor, the dram shop law imposes liability only if the patron was visibly intoxicated when served alcohol. But what does that mean? Bar staff do not have breathalyzers to use before pouring a drink. How do they know someone is intoxicated?

Generally, we will look for evidence that a patron had the telltale signs of being drunk:

  • Red rimmed eyes
  • Slurred speech
  • Loss of coordination
  • Alcoholic breath

Staff should also listen to whether the patron admits to being drunk or to drinking too much, since these admissions are also relevant.

Were You Hurt in a Jefferson County Drunk Driving Accident?

At Call & Gentry, we analyze all possible sources of compensation for our clients, including whether we can bring a dram shop lawsuit for a drunk driving crash. To learn more, contact us at (573) 644-6090 to schedule a free consultation.