Liquor (Dram Shop) Liability

If you were injured in a DUI accident or another type of accident involving a visibly intoxicated person, you might be entitled to compensation for your damages under Indiana’s personal injury laws. When a person causes an injury, that person can be held liable for the victim’s medical bills, lost wages, physical pain, emotional suffering, and other losses. The law provides a way for victims to seek compensation.

In addition, when an intoxicated person causes the injury, Indiana’s Dram Shop Act may also apply. This is an Indiana law that holds the person or business who furnished the alcohol liable for an injured person’s damages.

You may be able to sue a bar owner, convenience store owner, company party host, or someone else for providing alcohol to a person who was obviously too drunk to drive. If a drunk driver or otherwise intoxicated person has injured you, call 1-800-265-9881 now to speak with an Indianapolis dram shop liability attorney.

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You can also chat with a representative 24/7 online to get the help you need now! You do not need to wait another minute to get answers to your questions about a dram shop injury claim.

Contact Poynter & Bucheri, LLC by calling 1-800-265-9881 for a free consultation with one of our Indiana dram shop attorneys.

What is Dram Shop Liability?

The term “dram shop” is an old-fashioned reference to the drams in a serving of alcohol. Today, a dram shop could be a bar, restaurant, or any other type of business that serves or sells alcohol. Businesses that provide alcohol have a duty and legal responsibility under Indiana law to serve alcohol responsibly.

Under our state’s dram shop laws, a business that serves alcohol to a minor or to a person who is already intoxicated can be held legally liable if that person causes harm to another person because of the intoxication. For example, if a bar continues to serve a customer who is obviously drunk and that person causes a DUI accident, the bar can be held liable in a lawsuit. Under dram shop laws, the bar could be instructed to pay for the medical bills, car repairs, lost wages, and pain and suffering of the person who ended up being injured in the car accident.

In some states, dram shop laws are limited to commercial establishments. Other states have limited dram shop laws that apply to private individuals or social hosts who serve alcohol at a party or other function. Indiana’s dram shop laws are very broad. The state’s law does not make any distinction between a commercial establishment or a private individual.

If anyone knowingly gives alcohol to a person who is intoxicated, that person or business can be held liable when the intoxicated person causes an injury or death. Consequently, dram shop laws in Indiana cover restaurants, bars, liquor stores, convenience stores, hosts of private parties, and hosts of company parties.

Therefore, anyone serving alcohol needs to understand Indiana’s dram shop laws and be very careful to avoid liability for serving alcohol to an intoxicated person. Injured people should also familiarize themselves with dram shop laws and speak to an Indiana liquor liability lawyer as soon as possible to file a dram shop claim.

Who Can Be Sued Under Indiana’s Dram Shop Laws?

The key factor in the applicability of Indiana’s dram shop laws involves the act of furnishing alcohol. Depending on the circumstances, you may be able to sue any of the following:

  • Bars
  • Taverns
  • Restaurants
  • Liquor stores
  • Convenience stores
  • Company party hosts
  • Private party and social hosts

That’s right - you can sue an individual party host for providing alcohol to drunk drivers, even if they are your friend or family member. In Indiana, there is no difference between a vendor who is licensed to serve alcohol and an individual who serves alcohol at a party, when it comes to potential civil liability. If they serve alcohol to someone they know is already intoxicated, they could ultimately be held responsible.

Below are two main types of situations where Indiana’s dram shop laws apply: for establishments and for social hosts. These are merely examples, but they show how an injured person can place responsibility upon those who furnish alcohol.

Example 1: Establishment Liability

Imagine that Mike stops at his favorite local bar after a rough workday. He orders several drinks in a row, slurring his speech while telling the bartender about his bad day at work. He stumbles on his way back and forth to the bathroom. The bartender continues to serve Mike alcohol, and later he leaves the bar, gets into his car, and crashes into another driver named Doug. As the injured person, Doug can bring a personal injury claim against Mike over the accident. Under Indiana’s dram shop liability law, Doug can also sue the bar for overserving Mike despite his obvious intoxication.

Example 2: Social Host Liability

In this example, after Mike’s bad day at work, he decided to stop at his friend Sandy’s house. Sandy is having a house party where she’s serving an array of fancy cocktails. Mike has several drinks in a row and starts stumbling around the party, but Sandy continues to give him new cocktails to try. Mike leaves to drive home and crashes into Doug’s car. In this case, Doug can sue Mike or Sandy for their responsibility in contributing to the accident. By furnishing alcohol, Sandy is in the same position as a bar owner.

Why Do Dram Shop Laws Exist?

Dram shop laws exist to promote safety on Indiana’s roads. Drunk driving accidents can be so severe, and are such a persistent problem, that our state maintains dram shop laws to strongly encourage those who serve alcohol to behave responsibly and look out for their fellow citizens.

Indiana is not the only state with dram shop laws. Many states have them, and some are more strict than others. In Indiana, people sometimes have the misconception that dram shop laws remove the individual responsibility from the drunk driver, but this isn’t true at all. Drunk drivers are still liable for their actions while driving drunk.

Dram shop laws are not designed to eliminate the responsibility that a drunk driver or another intoxicated person faces for causing an injury. A drunk driver can still be sued and held liable for the negligent and reckless act of causing an injury because of intoxication. Dram shop laws simply take liability one step further, reaching the person/business that provided the alcohol.

When someone is injured, Indiana’s dram shop laws allow them to seek compensation from the party who furnished alcohol to an intoxicated person. If this party hadn’t provided too much alcohol, the injured person might never have been injured. A server who continues to provide an intoxicated person with additional alcohol and encourages them to act irresponsibly should also be held liable for their portion of the blame.

How Do I Prove Fault Under Indiana’s Dram Shop Act?

In order to prove liability under the Indiana Dram Shop Act, you must prove two main points:

The alleged liable party who served the alcohol knew that the person receiving the alcohol was intoxicated. Proof of intoxication may include receipts showing the amount of alcohol consumed during a specific period and typical signs of intoxication. Proof may also be shown in the person’s actions, like slurring their speech and stumbling around.

The intoxication was the proximate cause of the injury. For instance, the alleged liable person continues to serve an obviously intoxicated person who then picks up her keys to drive her car to leave. When the accident occurs just afterward, the intoxication may be shown to be the proximate cause.

As you can see, these two points can be difficult to prove depending on the circumstances of your individual situation. Proving liability under the Dram Shop Act can be difficult. You must provide evidence that establishes both factors. Establishing that the server knew of both the intoxication and that the intoxication would be the proximate cause of an injury can be complicated and usually requires the help of an attorney.

Working with an experienced Indianapolis dram shop attorney is highly recommended. Call the Poynter & Bucheri Accident Recovery legal team at 1-800-265-9881 for a free case review and free legal consultation with one of our Indianapolis dram shop attorneys.

Working with an experienced Indianapolis dram shop attorney is highly recommended. Call the PBAR legal team at 1-800-265-9881 for a free case review and free legal consultation with one of our Indianapolis dram shop attorneys.

Tips for Avoid Dram Shop Claims for Social Hosts

Because Indiana’s dram shop laws apply to social hosts, it is important for social hosts to take steps to prevent guests from causing an injury after consuming too much alcohol. Bars, restaurants, and other establishments provide training for servers, bartenders, and other employees to help avoid overserving an intoxicated patron.

However, social hosts typically do not have special training and don’t necessarily recognize the signs of intoxication until it’s too late. They may mistakenly believe they couldn’t be held responsible for an intoxicated guest’s behavior and might continue to serve them an excessive number of drinks.

A company party or backyard barbecue can quickly go sour when it contributes to someone’s injury or death. Take proactive steps to prevent overserving that leads to drunk driving accidents on Indiana’s roads.

The Insurance Information Institute offers the following tips for social hosts:

  • Understand the Dram Shop Laws in your state, including your responsibility when furnishing alcohol to guests.
  • Consider holding your event at a business with a liquor license.
  • Encourage guests to choose a designated driver.
  • Provide alternative forms of transportation for guests who have been consuming alcohol.
  • Hire a professional bartender to help you identify guests who have had too much to drink.
  • Limit your alcohol consumption so that you can watch guests carefully for signs of intoxication.
  • Make sure that you have plenty of food and non-alcoholic beverages available for guests.
  • Stop serving alcohol toward the end of the event and switch to coffee and other non-alcoholic beverages.
  • Do not encourage guests to consume alcohol by immediately replenishing alcoholic beverages.
  • As a host, you have a duty to serve alcoholic beverages responsibly. If you are worried about a dram shop claim, consider eliminating alcohol from your event.

What Happens When People Ignore Liquor Laws in Indiana?

When people ignore liquor laws and drive drunk, the result can be a catastrophic vehicle accident. Drunk driving accidents are among the most devastating accidents on Indiana roads because they tend to involve a mix of high speed, erratic driving, and injuries to other drivers.

The five most common bodily injuries from drunk driving crashes include:

  • Spinal cord and back injuries
  • Leg and knee injuries
  • Neck and shoulder injuries
  • Chest injuries, including severe internal bleeding and organ damage
  • Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs), closed head injuries, penetrating head injuries, and other brain injuries

After an accident, the drunk driver may try to claim that they were not drunk and are not at fault for the accident. The police and county prosecutor may or may not agree, and may or may not pursue a drunk driving charge against them depending on the evidence found at the scene.

Although it’s tempting to blame the drunk driver for their irresponsible behavior, it may be true that they are not the only guilty party involved. Indiana’s dram shop laws mean a business or private party who provides alcohol under certain circumstances can also be held liable.

Could Indiana’s Dram Shop Laws Help Me Pay My Medical Bills?

If you have massive medical bills due to a drunk driver’s negligence, you may be able to get help paying your bills by filing a lawsuit. Depending on the situation, you could sue the person or establishment that provided the alcohol.

Take a moment to look at your medical bills that resulted from the accident. Why should you have to cover these costs if someone else was ultimately at fault for what happened? Isn’t the bar, store, or person who provided too much alcohol also partially at fault?

Your costs could be staggering. In Indianapolis, the basic charge for an ambulance ride from the scene of an accident to the hospital is about $2,000 and is determined by 911’s best guess at whether you need basic or more advanced care. On top of that, you may have helicopter flight costs, surgery costs, and the cost of anesthesia.

For weeks, months, or even years after the accident, you could have follow-up surgeries, doctor’s visits, physical therapy, and psychological therapy to help you recover from the trauma. Motor vehicle accidents are the top cause of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in the general public, with 39.2% of all people involved in a motor vehicle accident developing PTSD.

When combined together, it’s common for these medical costs to exceed $50,000 and even go as high as $100,000 or more. Plus, you and your family will have to deal with the cost of your destroyed vehicle plus any lost wages due to medical recovery time. Just when you need money to pay your bills, you could lose a big chunk of your income or even lose your job.

A lawsuit based on liquor laws can help you recoup your financial losses and pay off your mountain of medical bills. It can also ease your stress and allow you to stop worrying about the accident. This means you can focus on your recovery and minimize the impact on your life after someone else decided to drive drunk.

What Should I Do After a Drunk Driving Accident?

When your accident occurs, you probably won’t know the other driver’s circumstances. It may or may not be immediately apparent that they are drunk. Your top priorities should be staying safe, getting emergency medical care, and contacting the authorities.

Call 911 and examine yourself for injuries. Never leave the scene of an auto accident without contacting the authorities and starting the process of getting a police report, especially if drunk driving may be involved. Get medical treatment and save all the paperwork. You may need this documentation later for legal reasons.

Gather evidence before you lose your chance to do so. Take pictures and detailed notes to capture the scene of the accident. Note things that could be important later, like the erratic behavior of the other driver. Photograph any debris and signs that may be relevant to the accident.

Exchange information with the other driver, but only if it’s safe to do so. Drunk drivers can behave in unpredictable ways and you may need the assistance of the police. Don’t make any statements or get into an argument with anyone. Try to remain calm, despite the stress and trauma of the situation.

Contact your insurance company promptly. A delay in contacting your insurer could come back to bite you later because they could claim you waited too long. Don’t feel pressured to provide extensive detail at this point, though. You need to talk to a lawyer first.

Call an Indianapolis liquor liability lawyer. Talk about your concerns and ask about Indiana liquor, or dram shop, laws. An experienced liquor liability lawyer can help you investigate your accident and determine which laws apply to your dram shop case.

Emergency: Call 911
Indiana State Police: 317-232-8248
Indiana Liquor Liability Attorney: 800-265-9881

What Damages Can I Win From a Liquor Liability Claim?

You may be entitled to receive substantial compensation for your liquor liability injury claim. Our Indianapolis attorneys can help you recover compensation for vehicle damages, lost wages, medical expenses, pain, permanent impairments, suffering, and future damages.

Remember, you will probably face an uphill battle in trying to hold someone accountable for your accident. The drunk driver might blame the bar that served them too many drinks. The bar owner might pass you off to their insurance company. An insurance company often does everything they can to make your case go away, including pressuring you to drop it or take a fast, minimal settlement.

If you are contacted by an insurance adjuster after a drunk driving accident, remember: You don’t have to speak to them. They are not your friend. They work for the insurance company. The adjuster wants to help their employer pay as little as possible to settle your claim.

To pursue a liquor liability claim, you need a trusted legal advocate on your side whose only priority is recovering the maximum allowable compensation you deserve. You need an Indianapolis liquor liability lawyer who is very familiar with these claims and applicable laws - someone who knows how to fight for your rights and win.

How Poynter & Bucheri Accident Recovery Can Help

At Poynter & Bucheri, our experienced liquor liability attorneys are here to help you understand your rights after a drunk driving crash on Indiana roads. With our thorough knowledge of Indiana’s liquor liability laws, we can help you get the compensation you need to move forward with your life after the trauma of your accident.

Don’t hesitate to hold someone who serves alcohol responsible for the consequences of their actions. A liquor liability lawsuit puts Indiana’s dram shop laws to proper use and places a high value on your rights as an Indiana citizen.

For More Information About Dram Shop Liability Contact an Indianapolis Dram Shop Lawyer

Call Poynter & Bucheri, LLC at 1-800-265-9881 or (317) 780-8000 to request your free consultation with one of our experienced Indianapolis dram shop attorneys.

We will conduct a comprehensive investigation into the circumstances that led to your injury. If another party furnished the alcohol to the person who caused your injury, we will aggressively pursue a claim for damages under the Dram Shop Act.

We Specialize in Helping Victims Like You!

If you are injured or you have lost a loved one in a drunk driving accident that involves Indiana liquor liability laws, call Poynter & Bucheri, LLC at 1-800-265-9881, for a free consultation to discuss your options.

 

Video Transcript
Hi, my name is Richard Bucheri from Poynter & Bucheri, and today I want to talk about what you need to know about dram shop cases. It is illegal in Indiana to knowingly and serve an intoxicated person, and this applies to both establishment and social hosts. So not only to bartenders at your local pub or restaurant, but also to people that are throwing parties at their house. If a person is visibly intoxicated, you are not allowed to serve them, and if you do, you are responsible for any damages that they may cause to another third person. So I typical situation where this would happen is somebody is at a party or somebody is at a bar, and they basically had way too much to drink. Even if they've had too much to drink at another place, if they come into the new place visibly intoxicated, and people at bars and restaurants that are serving alcohol should be trained to recognize when somebody is visibly intoxicated.

If they have that situation occur, then they are not to be serving that person any more alcohol. So if that person gets served alcohol and then ends up getting in their car and driving, and then causing a very serious DUI accident where somebody gets hurt or killed, then not only is that [inaudible 00:01:28] responsible for the accident that they caused, but the person that served them alcohol while they were intoxicated is also responsible to the person that was injured or killed. In fact, this can actually apply to the person themselves that was drinking. So if you knowingly serve somebody that is drunk and then that drunk person hurts themselves, then the bar could be liable for that as well.

So it's very important, in these cases, to determine the toxicology evidence. If somebody was to have been in an accident, usually the police come out. When the police come out and it's a serious accident, then they're going to take them to the hospital and draw blood and find out what their blood alcohol level was. Other evidence that's important in these types of cases would be potentially video from the establishment where it happened. Then also, we'd be talking about witness statements, people that saw the person, receipts, credit card receipts, or POS receipts from the cash register that show how much this person had been served.

So these are all things that need to be immediately investigated in these type of dram shop cases. The reason why this is so important is because oftentimes, a person that gets in their car and drinks and drives and costs an accident does not have adequate insurance to pay for all of the damages that he causes to another person. While he may have minimum insurance coverage or no insurance coverage at all, the restaurant or establishment likely has a commercial insurance policy that would be several hundred thousand dollars or maybe even millions of dollars that could potentially cover a catastrophic injury (silence).

 

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