Unless the drunk driver drank alone, someone drank with him, possibly providing the alcohol that impaired his driving. In limited circumstances you may be able to sue a licensed establishment serving the person. That’s not the case if the driver was served at a private home.
Tyler Fleck represents people injured in car accidents caused by drunk drivers. One reason we investigate our clients’ claims is so we can find all those responsible for the crash. That may include who served the drunk drinks. If you need help because you’re injured in a car crash, call Tyler at (270) 446- 7000 to schedule a free consultation.
Kentucky Law Regarding The Dram Shop Act And How to Sue a Bar That Served A Drunk Driver
“Dram Shop Act” is the nickname for the statute that makes those serving alcohol potentially liable for injuries caused by the alcohol they provide. Kentucky’s version states:
- Drinking alcohol, not serving or selling it, is the legal (or proximate) cause of any injury, including death and property damage, caused by an intoxicated person
- No person holding a permit to serve or sell alcohol, nor any agent, servant, or employee of that person, who sells or serves alcohol to someone of a legal drinking age shall be liable because the person served was intoxicated
- The intoxicated person shall be primarily liable with respect to injuries suffered by others
There are four exceptions to this rule, when:
- A reasonable person under the same or similar circumstances should know the person served is already intoxicated at the time of serving
- Someone causes or contributes to drinking alcoholic beverages by force
- Someone causes or contributes to drinking alcoholic beverages by falsely representing the drink has no alcohol
- The person serves alcohol to someone younger than the legal drinking age
The statute imposes a duty on vendors of alcoholic beverages that before selling or serving alcohol, they must observe the person for signs of intoxication and not serve or sell alcohol to a drunk customer. Liability is for injuries suffered by a third person due to vendor’s customer, if the vendor’s negligent conduct is also a proximate cause of the third person’s injuries. If the drunk customer is injured, he or she has no cause of action against vendor, only injured third parties can sue.
Most of these cases involve people of drinking age served at a bar or restaurant who leave intoxicated and cause an accident. If you can prove the person’s behavior was such that the bartender should’ve known he was drunk and stopped serving him, you may have a claim against the vendor.
How Drunk Do You Have to Be for a Reasonable Person to Decide You Shouldn’t Be Served? Why Do I need A Lawyer to Help?
You have to be pretty intoxicated, but everyone’s tolerance of alcohol is different. Someone may drink half a case of beer and not appear drunk while someone may be clearly drunk after a couple martinis. In a case where the defendant lost, the appeals court described the drinking of the driver and passenger prior to the accident:
‘Justin Duncan was driving his 1990 Chevrolet pickup truck with passenger Colleen Jackson when he veered from the roadway and struck a tree. Both Duncan and Jackson had been drinking prior to the accident. In fact, the pair drank several beers at the Kountry Kastle restaurant before going to the Big Kahuna nightclub where they consumed more alcohol. Duncan and Jackson then went to Ginger & Pickles nightclub where they drank several more beers as well as shared a “pickle bowl,” a concoction made from pure grain alcohol and Kool-Aid.’
In many of these cases the drunk driver will be arrested and their blood alcohol content could be far greater than the allowable blood alcohol content level.
Social Host Responsibility
In some states, but not Kentucky, the law allows a cause of action against a private party hosting others and providing them alcohol to the point they’re intoxicated. If one of those guests caused your accident, you could sue the driver, but not the host who provided the alcohol. You may be able to sue the host if they’re doing something illegal, like serving an underage driver or providing illegal drugs to guests.
Get the Legal Help You Need from an Attorney You Can Trust
Kentucky law is not the most favorable to accident victims, but that is why hiring an attorney to help you if you have been involved in an accident by a drunk driver is so important. We investigate our clients’ accidents and press all the legal claims we can based on those facts.
If you have any questions about compensation for vehicle accident injuries caused by a drunk driver or want legal representation to help you with an injury caused by another, contact The Fleck Firm for a free consultation at (270) 446-7000. We’ll talk about the accident, the law, and your best options to proceed. Insurance companies have lawyers. You should have one too.