Can I Sue A Bar After A Drunk Driving Accident?

By Peter DePaolis

civil lawsuits after drunk driving accidentsPicture this: you’re driving home at night and tragedy strikes. You’re hit by a drunk driver who made the unfortunate choice to drive home after leaving a bar. As it turns out, the driver may not be the only one at fault in this situation. In some cases, you may be able to file a “dram shop” claim or in other words, sue a bar.

Dram Shop Claims – Sue a Bar

Spirits used to be sold by the dram, which is a small unit of liquid. So, the term “dram shops” now includes any establishment that sells alcohol. In Washington, D.C., it is illegal for retail licensees to sell alcohol to the following people:

  • A person who is already intoxicated
  • A person who appears to be intoxicated
  • A “person of notoriously intemperate habits”, also known as a habitual drunkard
  • A minor

This means if the driver who caused a car crash appeared to be drunk and the bartenders kept serving alcohol anyway, you may have a dram shop liability claim.

Bar or restaurant owners and managers must be vigilant in ensuring their employees know how to keep their patrons from harming others. To do so, bar owners could implement the following policies:

  • Sending servers and bartenders to server education courses
  • Ensure employees do not encourage customers to become intoxicated
  • Promote available nonalcoholic beverages
  • Encourage customers who have been drinking to take a taxi or rideshare home

What is the Difference Between Dram Shop and Social Host Liability?

Social host liability claims are similar to dram shop claims but apply to social hosts, rather than bars. Say, for example, a person is drunk at a house party and the host continues to serve alcohol. If that guest causes a drunk driving accident, some states will hold the hosts liable for damages. In Washington, D.C., this is not the case. However, you would still be able to file a claim against the guest who caused the crash.

Speak With A DUI Accident Attorney

In any accident where a drunk driver is involved, contact a DUI accident attorney immediately for help and determine what steps you should take to move forward.

Koonz, McKenney, Johnson & DePaolis L.L.P. is a Washington, D.C. personal injury law firm that aggressively fights to help victims of drunk driving. We also have offices in Fairfax, Virginia and Greenbelt, Maryland. We offer free consultations. Call us today to speak to one of our attorneys. 

About the Author
Peter DePaolis joined the firm in 1980 and has since represented a large number of individuals involved in automobile collisions, truck accidents, bus crashes, defective products, and medical malpractice cases. A significant portion of Mr. DePaolis’ practice is devoted to working on behalf of people suffering from asbestosis, mesothelioma, and other asbestos-related cancers. He has led his firm’s fight against the asbestos industry and has recovered over $30 million in damages for asbestos victims and their families.