August 2, 2023
personal injury

If you or a loved one has suffered injury or harm due to a drunk driver’s negligence, understanding Alabama’s Dram Shop laws and how they can influence your personal injury case is essential. These laws can enable you to seek compensation not just from the drunk driver, but also from the establishment that served them alcohol.

The laws go into effect when an establishment such as a bar, restaurant, or tavern unlawfully sells or serves alcohol to an individual who subsequently causes harm due to intoxication. In these cases, the establishment may be held partially or entirely responsible for the resulting damages.

Understanding Alabama’s Dram Shop Laws

Dram Shop laws are designed to hold establishments accountable for serving alcohol to individuals who are visibly intoxicated or under the legal drinking age. The serving establishment can be held liable if the person being served causes an accident leading to personal injury or property damage.

Alabama’s Dram Shop Act (Alabama Code § 6-5-71) allows a person injured by an intoxicated individual to sue the establishment that served the alcohol under certain conditions. This means that the victim, or in the case of wrongful death, the victim’s family, can seek damages such as medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering to help pay for the financial and non-economic losses from the accident.

Establishing Liability in Personal Injury Cases

When seeking damages under the state’s Dram Shop laws, it is not enough that the negligent driver was served alcohol. The victim must also prove several elements to win compensation.

To hold an establishment accountable under Alabama’s Dram Shop laws, you must prove that:

  • The establishment sold or provided alcohol to the person.
  • The establishment knew or should have known, that the person was already intoxicated when served.
  • The person’s intoxication was a direct cause of the injury or damage incurred.

Alabama law also extends liability to social hosts who provide alcohol to minors who subsequently cause injury or damage.

This can potentially increase the compensation available to the injured party, as both the intoxicated individual and the establishment bear responsibility. The plaintiff must provide strong evidence showing the server’s negligence in serving the visibly intoxicated patron, which could include eyewitness testimonies, surveillance footage, or expert testimony.

Overcoming Challenges in Pursuing Claims

If the injured party can demonstrate that the drunk driver was unlawfully served alcohol at an establishment, they can file a lawsuit against that establishment. However, proving these elements can be challenging.  The defendant (usually the establishment’s owner) may use several defenses to dispute their liability. These may include:

  • The Intoxication Did Not Cause the Injury

The defendant might argue that the person’s intoxication did not cause your injuries. They might claim that the damages would have occurred regardless of the person’s intoxicated state, perhaps attributing the accident to weather conditions or mechanical failure.

  • Contributory Negligence

If your actions contributed to your injury, the establishment’s insurance company may use this as a defense. For example, speeding or running a red light could disqualify you from receiving damages under Alabama’s contributory negligence statute.

  • The Person Was Served Alcohol Elsewhere

The establishment could argue that the intoxicated person was served alcohol at another location after visiting their premises. They may use receipts, witness statements, or other evidence to support this claim.

How a Personal Injury Attorney Can Help

To challenge these defenses, work with a skilled attorney to gather sufficient evidence and help you prove your case. Your attorney from The Vance Law Firm Injury Lawyers can help you collect evidence to prove the establishment’s negligence, including photographs, videos, eyewitness testimonies, or receipts.

They can also help you document your injuries with medical records, photographs, and diagnostic testing to support your claim. With strong evidence, your attorney can negotiate with the defendants’ insurance companies to win fair compensation for your damages.

Contact a Personal Injury Lawyer Today

Understanding and successfully navigating Dram Shop Laws can be complex, requiring in-depth knowledge of Alabama’s legal codes and precedents. Work with an experienced Alabama personal injury attorney at The Vance Law Firm. We are familiar with the application of these laws and can help gather evidence, present a strong case, and advocate for the maximum compensation possible.

Contact our law firm to arrange your free, confidential consultation.

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