January 27, 2015

Any vehicle accident is regrettable. However, it is particularly sad when an innocent motorist is injured or killed at the hands of a drunk driver. Unfortunately, many people who drink and drive become impaired after visiting restaurants or bars and consuming alcohol to the point of inebriation.

In Pennsylvania, it is unlawful for establishments to serve alcohol to individuals who are under the age of 21 or visibly intoxicated. Currently, Pennsylvania laws presume that a person is legally impaired if their blood alcohol concentration level exceeds 0.08 percent. Many people outwardly exhibit signs of drunkenness when beyond that level. According to the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board Bureau of Licensing, bar and restaurant owners can be held criminally and civilly liable for violations of so-called “dram shop” laws.

Dram shop laws generally refer to the concept of attaching legal liability to individuals who serve alcohol that later results in some harm. In other words, a bartender can be held responsible for continuing to serve alcohol to a visibly intoxicated patron or someone under the legal drinking age of 21 that results in death or injury.

Pennsylvania’s dram shop laws also extend liabilities to the owner of an establishment that serves alcohol. This means that an owner can potentially face imprisonment, fines, license revocation even if he or she did not actually serve the liquor to a drunk or underage patron.

There have been previous court cases where drunk drivers who have hurt themselves or others have then successfully sued the owner of a liquor licensed establishment. Some of those verdicts have resulted in injured parties receiving substantial awards. Typically, the licensee business owner or his or her insurance companies are forced to pay in those situations. In other scenarios, an underage person or an over-served patron will sue the bar or restaurant for any injuries he or she caused to him- or herself while drunk.

If you have been a victim of a preventable accident that involved alcohol, you may be entitled to seek compensation for your injuries. Your Pennsylvania personal injury attorney can examine the specific details of your case and determine whether a dram shop lawsuit may be in order.

Source: Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board Bureau of Licensing, “A handbook about the responsible sales of alcohol for Pennsylvania Licensees” accessed Jan. 27, 2015