Dram Shop Liability and What It Means for You

According to the CDC, 29 Americans die every day in alcohol-related car accidents. From 2003-2012, almost 4,000 Georgians were killed. And while death is certainly the worst-case scenario, these statistics don’t account for the horrific injuries that can change the victim’s life forever.  

If you or your family has suffered as a result of an alcohol-related accident, you need to understand who you may have a claim against. The intoxicated driver is obviously at fault, but what happens if he is killed or doesn’t have the financial means to make you whole? There were others who could have taken action to prevent this accident but did not. Should they be held accountable for your suffering?  

The Georgia Dram Shop Act

Recognizing the responsibility that others may have in preventing a drunk person from getting behind the wheel, most states have adopted legislation that is known as “Dram Shop” laws.  Setting aside the archaic-sounding name, these laws basically holds bars and other establishments liable in the event that one of their patrons causes an accident after leaving. Georgia has its own Dram Shop Act, which may be helpful for accident victims seeking compensation for their injuries caused by alcohol-related accidents.  

Two Basic Categories of Liability

The Georgia Act establishes two scenarios where someone may be held liable under the Dram Shop statute:  

  1. Serving alcohol to someone under the age of 21; and
  2. Serving alcohol to someone over the age of 21 but is noticeably intoxicated.

In both instances, in order to be held liable, the person serving the alcohol has to know that the person they are serving will soon be getting behind the wheel.  In other words, simply serving alcohol to someone who is under the age of 21 or is noticeably intoxicated is not enough to hold them liable.

Persons Under 21

It’s important to note that, if the person drinking is underage, they did not need to be noticeably intoxicated in order for the server to be held potentially liable. However, the statute does require that the person providing the alcohol must have done so knowing that the person was underage in order to be held liable. The statute expressly exempts establishments from liability if they relied upon identification that says they were over 21.  As a result, if the underage drinker produced a fake ID, the establishment may not be held liable.

Who May Be Held Liable

Under the Georgia Dram Shop Act, bars, restaurants, clubs, or any other establishments that are licensed to serve alcohol may be held liable. However, it’s also important to know that, under the Georgia Act, anyone who “furnishes” alcohol as described above is potentially liable.  As a result, private citizens may also be held liable under the Act. Here are some examples where there may be a liability that many people don’t consider:

  • Someone hosting a party at their home or at a vacation rental
  • A wedding reception
  • A dinner party
  • Religious or other social events

Contact an Atlanta Personal Injury Today

If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident caused by someone driving drunk, the attorneys at Slappey & Sadd are here to help. We’ve been helping accident victims since 1992 – call us at 404-255-6677 or send us an email in order to schedule a free consultation.  

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