Is a Bar Liable for a Drunk Driver in Indiana?

Beer glass

What you’ll learn reading this article:

  • Indiana has broad liquor laws that hold bars accountable for drunk driving.
  • However, it takes legal expertise to secure compensation.
  • An Indiana DUI lawyer can help you take on the bar that over-served a drunk driver.
YouTube video

After a DUI accident involving an intoxicated person, the investigation starts. The authorities look for evidence that the driver was drunk and try to determine what the driver was doing just before the crash.

Were they drinking alone at home? Did they have passengers in the car? Were they on the way home from a pub or party?

Victims of drunk drivers can often claim compensation for their medical bills, lost wages, physical pain, and emotional suffering under Indiana’s personal injury laws. But compensation doesn’t always come from the drunk driver. Sometimes it comes from a company, like the local bar that kept pouring more drinks when the person was obviously drunk.

What is Indiana’s Dram Shop Act?

So, is a bar liable for a drunk driver? Bars can be held liable for drunk driving under Indiana’s Dram Shop Law. “Dram shop” is an old-fashioned reference to drams as a measure of alcohol. Modern dram shops are pubs, restaurants, gas stations, and many other types of organizations that sell and serve alcohol.

Under Indiana law, anyone who provides alcohol has a duty and legal responsibility to serve it responsibly. The law covers a wide variety of locations and situations where alcohol is served:

  • Bars and taverns
  • Restaurants
  • Liquor and convenience stores
  • Company party, private party, and social hosts

A person or company that serves alcohol to someone who is already intoxicated can be held legally liable if the drunk person harms someone due to the intoxication. So if a bartender continues to serve a customer who is noticeably drunk and causes a DUI accident, the bar can be held liable in a lawsuit.

Keep in mind that someone doesn’t have to be criminally charged with a DUI offense or even over the legal limit of .08 BAC to start a civil action. You can still sue a bar or drunk driver for causing an alcohol-related accident if any level of impairment led to harming you.

To hold a bar or other provider of alcohol liable for drunk driving, it must be shown that:

  • The provider furnished alcohol to the person.
  • The provider must have known the person was drunk.

Proving Liquor Liability Requires Legal Expertise

Is a bar liable for a drunk driver in Indiana? Although Indiana has relatively broad liquor laws, holding a bar, pub, tavern, or other business responsible for drunk driving is quite difficult. Bartenders and their establishments will often claim that they had “no actual knowledge” that the person was drunk, meaning they couldn’t have known they were serving someone who was too drunk to drive.

If you’re an injured victim trying to hold a bar responsible for what happened, prepare yourself for a tough legal battle ahead. You’ll need the help of an experienced Indiana DUI attorney who understands how to locate and present strong evidence to support your case.

At Poynter & Bucheri Accident Recovery, we help our clients make compelling cases for accident compensation. We can help you stand up to a bar or other business that’s putting up a fight against paying you what you deserve.

Poynter & Bucheri Accident Recovery – Indianapolis Personal Injury Attorneys

If you or a loved one has been injured physically or mentally by a person, product, or company, you need to know your legal rights. Our personal injury attorneys are experienced with cases like yours and can evaluate what your case may be worth. We will ensure that you are protected and compensated for your injuries and losses. Why pay up to 40% in attorney fees? Our fee is only 25%* and we fight to win your case or you pay no attorney fees at all. Don’t hesitate – one of our experienced attorneys can assist you right away. Call 1-800-265-9881 for a free case review.

Video Transcript: 
When is a bar or restaurant liable for injuries that occur as a result of over-serving a patron? So what we’re talking about here is Indiana’s Dram Shop law. And what the Dram Shop law provides is that a person who furnishes alcohol to someone who they had actual knowledge was intoxicated, and that intoxication was a proximate or foreseeable cause of injuries sustained either by a third person or even the first person, then the restaurant or bar could be liable. So how these cases often play out is that a person is served alcohol and they’re intoxicated, and they get in their car and they’re driving home or wherever they’re driving, and they get into a serious accident with another person.
And so the issues that are posed here are first, you have to be able to prove that they were furnished alcohol at a certain restaurant or establishment. And then you have to be able to prove that the person that was serving the alcohol at that establishment had actual knowledge that they were intoxicated. And then finally, you have to show that that intoxication resulted in the injuries that were sustained. So usually the third part is the easiest part because oftentimes there’s a police investigation involved and they will get the intoxication evidence, whether they do a blood draw or a breathalyzer from the person to show that that person is drunk. And then from the facts of the accident scene and kind of reconstructing the accident, they’re able to determine that that person’s intoxication and their operation of the vehicle while intoxicated was what caused the other person’s injuries or the injuries to themselves.
The difficult part is determining where that person was drinking, or secondly, whether that person was served alcohol when the bartender knew that the person was intoxicated. And oftentimes it’s very difficult to ascertain this because once a person’s arrested, then they have the right to remain silent, and then they lawyer up because there’s a criminal case involved, and the attorney does not want to provide any information to show that the client was even drinking at all. And so it can be difficult to get that information until much later down the road, once the criminal case is over.
And in those circumstances then, when you’re trying to find out six or nine months later where the person was drinking and make inquiries as to evidence that may exist at the establishment where they were drinking, it can be difficult because evidence is lost over a period of time. So you don’t have video showing the person being overserved. You don’t have the receipts showing the amount of alcohol that was purchased by this person. You don’t have the eyewitnesses. And so it’s very, very, very important to get an attorney on your side right away, so that an investigation can be undertaken as quickly as possible to determine what establishments we’re talking about and try to preserve that evidence that will be necessary in order to be able to prove your case.
Now, you can still sue the person that actually caused the injuries, but unfortunately in these type of cases where you have a person that’s extremely drunk and behind the wheel, a lot of times they’re causing very, very, very serious injuries and the personal insurance of the person that causes the accident is not going to be enough provide for all of the hospital bills and pain and suffering and lost wages that may have occurred as a result of the accident. If you are involved in an accident with a drunk driver, or you were overserved at a restaurant or bar and you sustained injuries yourself, please give us a call for a free case evaluation. We’ll go over the facts of your case and determine whether you may have a valid Dram Shop claim