The Fundamentals of Dram Shop Liability in Alabama
While any type of motor vehicle accident is indeed a tragedy, drunk driving collisions are especially heinous given the fact that they could have likely been avoided had the intoxicated driver simply not gotten behind the wheel in the first place. Thankfully, Alabama law provides various alternatives for holding drunk drivers accountable when they cause car accidents. For instance, not only can drunk drivers face possible criminal charges but civil liability as well if their negligent actions cause injury to others.
However, victims of drunk driving accidents may be surprised to learn that, under Alabama law, the bar that originally sold alcohol to the drunk driver may also be liable in certain situations. In fact, this particularly form of liability stems from Alabama’s Dram Shop Act.
Alabama Dram Shop laws
More than 100 years ago, Alabama passed its first Dram Shop statute. For the vast majority of time since then, a cause of action has existed for those injured or killed by an intoxicated person when such person was sold alcohol by a bar after he or she was already intoxicated.
In its current form, Alabama’s Dram Shop law typically applies when a bar or tavern illegally sells, or otherwise provides, alcohol to one of its patrons, and the patron subsequently injures a third party in a car accident. However, in order for liability to attach, the victim needs to prove that the sale of alcohol to the bar patron was “contrary to the provisions of [Alabama] law.”
Fortunately, regulations promulgated by the Alabama Alcoholic Beverage Control Board expressly state that an on-premises licensee – such as a bar – cannot serve alcohol to any person that already appears to be intoxicated. Consequently, if a drunk driving victim can show that the bar continued to serve a driver despite the fact that he or she was exhibiting signs of intoxication, it is more likely that liability on the part of the bar will be found.
Under Alabama’s Dram Shop laws, victims can seek actual damages, such as medical expenses, as well as exemplary damages in certain circumstances.
Legal assistance may be needed
Ultimately, Alabama courts have concluded that the legislative intent of the state’s Dram Shop laws is to protect the public at large from intoxicated drivers and to stop, or at least deter, drunk driving facilitated by bar owners.
Consequently, if a drunk driver in Alabama has injured you or a loved one, it is important to contact a skilled personal injury attorney as soon as possible. A knowledgeable attorney can help investigate your accident and fully explain your rights and options.