Accidents caused by drunk driving are always legally complex, but they become even more so when the drunk driver who facilitated the accident became intoxicated at a bar. If you or someone who is close to was injured in a car accident at the hands of a drunk driver, you may also have a case against the establishment he or she was at the day of the crash. When might you have a case? There are a few things that factor into proving that the bar was partially responsible for the accident and, by extension, subsequent injuries.
What was the age of the patron?
Bars are required by law to make sure that all patrons are of legal drinking age. You will have a solid case against the bar if the person who caused the accident was a minor being served alcohol. This means the bar was negligent in checking identification, especially for those who look too young to be drinking in the first place.
Age is one of the only factors that allows an accident perpetrator to sue. For example, if your teenaged son or daughter caused the accident and even paid for the alcohol while in the bar, you could still sue the bar for damages. Minors are protected by the law, and are not held as responsible for their actions, unlike other adult offenders who are legally allowed to purchase and consume alcohol.
What was the condition of the patron upon entering and leaving the bar?
Even though alcohol is legally served at bars, it is irresponsible and illegal for bartenders to continue to serve beverages to those who are noticeably drunk and unable to fully function. Therefore, if you could prove, either by blood alcohol levels or by witnesses, that the bar should have refused to serve the patron who caused the accident, they could be held partially responsible.
Also, bars should discourage drunk driving. If you can assert that those working in the bar knowingly allowed a drunk patron to leave in his or her vehicle, you will have a strong case against the establishment.
Did the bar take reasonable measures to discourage drunk driving?
Bars should have strict policies to help reduce irresponsible alcohol consumption. You will have a good case against the bar if you can prove that:
- the perpetrator of the accident was not required to show ID when buying drinks. Even if the person was clearly an adult, neglecting to ask for ID is indicative of negligence.
- the bar served patrons past closing time. Allowing people to continue to drink when the bar shows negligence because it means if the correct times were observed, the perpetrator may not have had a "last drink", sending him or her home earlier with a lower level of intoxication. Also, serving past state-mandated closing times is against the law.
- the served portions of drinks that were too frequent or too large to be healthily consumed by the individual.
On the other hand, the bar will have a strong case against your claim if they have excellent measures in place to discourage overconsumption of alcohol. These might include:
- training employees to notice and detain visibly inebriated customers.
- having posted policies that discourages drunkenness in the establishment.
- serving food and drinks that will help to reduce blood alcohol levels.
- contracting to a taxi company to pick up customers that are in no state to drive home.
These four practices, while not always required by law, depending on the state, show that the bar takes its role in responsible drinking seriously. On the other hand, if these types of safeguards are missing, you can make improvements to the establishment a condition of your lawsuit.
As you can see, even though the person who caused the accident is the most at fault, there are other factors that come into play during a drunk driving case. Talk to an accident or personal injury attorney, like one from Sarkisian, Sarkisian & Associates PC, for more details about winning your specific case.