What Is Dram Shop Liability?
When bars, restaurants, and other commercial establishments serve alcohol to an already visibly intoxicated person, they may share in the liability if that person later causes a car crash or other accident. Under California’s Dram Shop Act, injured drivers can hold commercial establishments responsible for these accidents.
In addition to filing a personal injury claim or a lawsuit against the commercial establishment, an injured car accident victim can name the at-fault drunk driver as a party to their case.
When maximizing the monetary compensation you recover following a drunk driving accident, you need a skilled team of attorneys advocating for you every step of the way and pursuing your right to monetary compensation.
A car accident lawyer can help you file a claim or lawsuit against all potentially responsible parties in your case and work to secure the favorable monetary damages you deserve for all of your accident-related losses.
As part of the process, your attorney can negotiate with insurance company representatives on your behalf and, if necessary, pursue litigation through the court system so that you can maximize your overall monetary award.
California’s Dram Shop Law
According to California’s Dram Shop Law, a commercial establishment can be civilly liable for the acts of a drunk driver if:
- The establishment served alcohol to a visibly intoxicated adult or a minor
- The intoxicated individual injured someone else in the accident
- Intoxication was a substantial factor in the accident victim suffering injuries in the accident
To prove these legal elements, your lawyer can gather specific evidence in your case, including:
- Information from eyewitnesses at the commercial establishment
- Surveillance footage from the establishment
- Police reports
The Dangers of Intoxicated Driving
Just as drivers have an affirmative duty to drive safely at all times and follow all traffic laws and regulations, commercial establishments have a duty not to serve visibly intoxicated individuals more alcohol. When they do, they may share in some or all of the liability for a subsequent car accident.
Intoxicated driving comes with some grave risks and potential consequences.
In California, a driver is legally, or per se, intoxicated if they have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) that meets or exceeds 0.08 percent, as measured by a breathalyzer.
Furthermore, underage drivers and commercial drivers must follow more stringent laws. Drivers who are visibly intoxicated often experience numerous physical and mental symptoms.
A drunk driver might suffer from dizziness, nausea, and blurred vision. Consequently, the driver may not clearly see and observe other nearby vehicles. They may also fail to notice a pedestrian in the area, bringing about a severe accident.
Alcohol intoxication can also lead to severe mental impairments, including limited concentration, delayed reflexes, and slowed reaction time. Therefore, an intoxicated driver might not hit the brakes on their vehicle in time to avoid a severe crash.
In addition to the potential for accidents and injuries, driving under the influence (DUI) can have severe criminal penalties upon conviction.
For example, a convicted DUI offender may have to serve jail time, pay monetary fines, or serve probation. They may also have to pay the accident victim monetary compensation through their insurance company as part of a civil claim or lawsuit. A commercial establishment that continues to serve a visibly intoxicated person alcohol may also share in this civil liability.
If you suffered personal injuries in a car crash that resulted from a commercial establishment and a drunk driver’s negligence, you have legal options that you can consider.
A skilled drunk driving accident attorney in your area can meet with you to discuss your accident circumstances, speak with witnesses, review police reports, and determine your eligibility for filing a successful personal injury claim or lawsuit.
After filing a claim against the at-fault parties on your behalf, your attorney can handle all written and verbal correspondence with insurance companies and work to secure the monetary recovery you need for your injuries.
Moreover, if the insurance company does not compensate you fairly, your lawyer can pursue litigation in your case and work to secure a favorable result on your behalf.
Common Injuries in Drunk Driving Auto Accidents
The injuries that victims of drunk driving auto accidents frequently suffer can be debilitating and may cause ongoing medical complications, as well as the need for ongoing treatment.
The injuries that an accident victim suffers will usually depend upon the collision force, the number of collisions that occur, and how the accident victim’s body moves when the crash occurs.
In some cases, a drunk driving crash is so forceful that it causes the accident victim’s body to move abruptly in their vehicle, from side to side or frontwards and backward.
These bodily movements may cause the accident victim to suffer a soft tissue whiplash injury. In addition, if the accident victim’s head strikes the steering wheel, door, window, or headrest, they may suffer a traumatic head or brain injury.
Additionally, victims of drunk driving accidents may suffer internal organ damage, open lacerations, bruises, internal bleeding, bone fractures, rib fractures, spinal cord injuries, or paralysis.
If you recently suffered any of these injuries in a drunk driving collision, you should undergo all of the necessary medical treatment, including consultations with your primary care doctor, consultations with a medical specialist, or physical therapy.
By completing your entire medical treatment regimen, you help to increase your chances of making a full recovery from your injuries. Additionally, you show the insurance company that your accident-related injuries are serious – and that they deserve ample monetary compensation.
Your lawyer can focus on the legal aspects of your case and gather the necessary documents while you focus most of your attention on seeking medical treatment and fully recovering from your injuries.
Negotiating With the Insurance Company
If you pursue a personal injury claim with the drunk driver’s insurance company and/or with the commercial establishment’s insurer, you will need experienced legal representation on your side. In addition to filing a claim on your behalf, your lawyer can assist you during all settlement negotiations.
Legal representation during settlement negotiations is extremely important since insurance companies routinely try to take advantage of unrepresented accident victims.
Without a lawyer in your car accident case, the insurance company will automatically assume that you lack the necessary legal skills and experience to obtain favorable monetary compensation for yourself or litigate your case favorably in the court system.
However, your lawyer will fully understand the tricks and tactics that insurance companies use when undervaluing claims. Your lawyer can point to your medical records and other documentation and highlight the strengths of your case while downplaying any weaknesses. Consequently, your lawyer can convince the insurance company to offer you a better settlement.
If the insurance company refuses to increase its settlement offer, you have the option of filing a lawsuit and litigating your drunk driving claim through the court system.
However, just because you file a lawsuit in your case does not necessarily mean that it will proceed all the way to a civil jury trial. In fact, the majority of drunk driving accident cases, especially those that involve significant injuries, settle at some point out of court.
Your lawyer can assist you during every stage of the litigation process, including written and oral discovery. If the defense attorney wants to take your discovery deposition, your lawyer can prepare you for the types of questions the defense attorney is likely to ask and help you make an effective presentation.
If the parties do not resolve their case through settlement, they may take their case to a civil jury trial. During a trial, the parties will present evidence for the jury to review. The jury will then deliberate and decide the issue of monetary compensation and damages.
Instead of resolving a drunk driving accident case at trial, the parties may elect to pursue alternative dispute resolution (ADR), such as binding arbitration or mediation. Your attorney can help you decide which option best suits your case and help you recover the maximum monetary compensation you are entitled to receive for your injuries.
Recovering Monetary Damages in a Drunk Driving Auto Accident Case
Victims of drunk driving auto accidents who suffer serious injuries may be eligible to recover various types of monetary compensation.
The total damage award that an accident victim recovers will usually depend upon certain important factors, including the extent of their injuries, the cost of their medical treatment, and their likelihood of making a full recovery from their injuries.
First, accident victims can recover monetary compensation for their past and anticipated medical expenses, as well as compensation for lost earnings or loss of earning capacity.
In addition, victims of drunk driving accidents can recover non-economic damages for all of their intangible losses. For example, they can receive monetary damages for their mental distress, emotional anguish, loss of the ability to use a body part, loss of life enjoyment, permanent disfigurement, loss of spousal companionship and consortium, inconvenience, and past and future pain and suffering.
Your drunk driving accident attorney will do everything they can to help you secure the highest possible monetary award in your case, either through a favorable settlement offer from the insurance company or litigation result in court.
Talk With a Drunk Driving Auto Accident Lawyer Right Away
In many cases, victims of drunk driving accidents are unsure of the legal steps they must take to recover monetary compensation.
In addition to seeking monetary compensation from the drunk driver who caused the accident, victims may be eligible to pursue a personal injury claim or lawsuit against a commercial establishment that continued to serve the driver alcohol.
A personal injury attorney in Orange County can help you identify all potentially responsible parties for your accident and file the appropriate claims with the proper insurance companies. Your lawyer can then help you reach a favorable settlement or litigation result by advocating aggressively and zealously on your behalf.