Picture this: You’re driving home from work late one night and as you slow down at the stoplights, a car comes crashing into you from behind. When you and the other driver exit your vehicles, you notice the strong smell of alcohol and the driver is unsteady on his feet. It’s clear you’ve been hit by a drunk driver.
As you know, the laws in Alabama hold intoxicated people responsible when they harm someone else. However, Alabama is also one of those states with dram shop laws. This means individuals and businesses can be held responsible for selling or giving alcohol to an obviously intoxicated person who goes on to cause harm. This means you may be able to sue the bar or restaurant which indirectly led to your injuries.
Alabama Code Section 6-5-71 sets out that anyone who is injured because of someone else’s intoxication can file a lawsuit against the person or business who provided the alcohol “contrary to the provisions of law”. Usually, personal injury lawsuits involve only the injured party and the person who allegedly caused the injury. However, under dram shop laws, a third party can be held liable for providing alcohol when they shouldn’t have.
Let’s say the driver who injured you had just left Peter’s Bar where the bartender kept selling him alcohol even though he was beginning to slur his words. You can choose to file a personal injury lawsuit against the driver but you can also file a claim against the bar.
The business may be held liable because the bartender continued serving drinks even when it was clear he shouldn’t do so. This action would be in keeping with serving alcohol contrary to provisions of the law since Alabama’s Alcohol Beverage Control board prohibits serving alcohol to a person who appears to be intoxicated. State law also prohibits establishments from serving alcohol to people under the age of 21. If the driver who crashed into you turns out to be a minor, you may have a case against the bar even if they weren’t visibly intoxicated when they were served.
It may be difficult to prove the business was responsible. Under dram shop laws, certain requirements must be met in order to establish liability. For example, you need to prove the establishment served alcohol to someone who was already intoxicated. You also need to prove that the bar’s decision to serve excessive alcohol was the “proximate cause” of your injuries. This means there must be a clear link between serving the drink and the accident which led to your injuries. Your Alabama auto accident lawyer will work to prove these elements were present in your motor vehicle accident case.
If you get an attorney on your case, you may be able to get both actual and exemplary damages. Actual damages compensate you for quantifiable losses which resulted from the accident. You may be entitled to compensation for:
It is easy to put a monetary value on these types of losses. However, your Alabama auto accident lawyer can also help you make a case for non-economic losses like pain and suffering and exemplary or punitive damages. The latter is aimed at punishing the drunk driver for their behavior and sending a message to other people that similar actions will cost them.
In order to get damages, you need to file your case within the statute of limitations. In Alabama, you have two years to file a personal injury case in court. If the case isn’t filed in time, the court will throw it out. While two years may seem like a long period, your attorney will need time to gather evidence and build the case. The sooner you retain an attorney, the better your chances of winning your case.
If you’ve been injured by a drunk driver, you deserve to be compensated for your losses. If you face high medical bills, a long recovery period. and a lot of time away from work, you shouldn’t have to handle it on your own. Reach out to an Alabama auto accident lawyer at The Vance Law Firm for a free consultation and find out if you can go after a bar for damages. Remember, you can also seek compensation from the drunk driver at the same time. Contact our experienced car accident attorneys and let us discuss the options available to you so you can get the compensation you deserve. We will handle the claims process from start to finish.