Contact us for a video consultation

PHONE: 803.799.7900

logo new

PHONE: 803.799.7900

Dram Shop Laws and Drunk Driving Attorneys

October 18, 2023

: DUI Defense

marijuana possession

In a world where social gatherings and nightlife are an integral part of our culture, the issue of drunk driving and its devastating consequences is a critical concern. Enter dram shop laws. What are dram shop laws, you ask? We’re here to provide insight. 

In this blog, we will delve into the intricacies of dram shop laws and explore how a seasoned drunk driving accident attorney can be invaluable to victims in these cases. 

What Are Dram Shop Laws?

Dram shop laws, also called alcohol liability laws, are statutes, regulations, and case law that hold alcohol-serving establishments and hosts accountable for injuries and damages caused by their patrons who were served alcohol irresponsibly or while already intoxicated. The primary objective is discouraging bars, restaurants, and other establishments from over-serving alcohol to visibly intoxicated individuals or minors.

Under dram shop laws, if a person becomes intoxicated at an establishment and subsequently causes harm or death due to their impaired state, the injured party may have the right to seek compensation from that establishment. This compensation can help cover medical expenses, pain and suffering, property damage, lost wages, and permanent disability and disfigurement resulting from drunk driving and boating collisions or even bar fights.

What Businesses Does Dram Shop Liability Apply To?

When establishments serve alcohol and do not consider public safety, it can lead to over-serving patrons, and innocent people often suffer the consequences. A wide range of establishments and hosts can be held responsible for dram shop liability, including the following:

  • Liquor Stores
  • Bars
  • Restaurants
  • Nightclubs
  • Country Clubs
  • Hotels
  • Catering/Bartending Companies 
  • Homeowners

How Do Dram Shop Laws Work?

To prove a dram shop liability claim, it’s generally required to establish that the business served alcohol to a visibly intoxicated person or a minor and that this irresponsible service of alcohol was a direct cause of injuries or death. However, the specifics of these laws can vary by state, so consulting with a knowledgeable attorney is crucial if you believe you have a dram shop claim.

Dram Shop Laws in South Carolina:

Since laws can change over time, it is essential to consult with a legal professional to get the most accurate and up-to-date information on dram shop laws in South Carolina. Here is a general overview of how dram shop laws currently work in SC:

  1. Third-Party Liability: Dram shop laws allow for third-party liability claims in South Carolina, meaning that if a person was injured or killed or an intoxicated individual damaged their property, they (or their estate) may have a valid claim against the establishment that served alcohol to the intoxicated person.
  2. Proof of Irresponsible Service: To succeed in a dram shop liability claim in South Carolina, the injured party typically must prove that the establishment served alcohol to a patron who was visibly intoxicated or to a minor. Establishing that the alcohol service was a direct cause of the injuries or damages is crucial.
  3. Statute of Limitations: It’s important to be aware of the statute of limitations for filing dram shop claims in South Carolina. This is the time limit within which a lawsuit must be filed after the incident. The specific statute of limitations may vary, so consulting with an attorney is essential to ensure you file within the appropriate time frame.
  4. Comparative Negligence: South Carolina follows a comparative negligence doctrine, which means that if the injured party is found to have contributed to their own injuries, the ability to recover damages may be reduced or eliminated. This can be a factor in dram shop cases, as the establishment may argue that the injured party’s actions played a role in the accident.

How Can a Drunk Driving Accident Attorney Help in Regards to Dram Shop Laws?

A drunk driving accident attorney is essential when pursuing a liability claim under dram shop laws. You shouldn’t have to tackle this challenging situation alone – here’s why you should invest in hiring a drunk driving attorney: 

  1. Legal Expertise: An attorney specializing in drunk driving accidents and dram shop liability is well-versed in applicable laws and regulations. They can provide you with a clear understanding of whether your case falls within the scope of dram shop liability and the legal requirements for pursuing such a claim in your jurisdiction.
  2. Investigation: Attorneys have the resources and experience to investigate whether the establishment that served alcohol to the intoxicated driver acted irresponsibly and negligently. If necessary, they will gather evidence, such as eyewitness accounts, surveillance footage, bar tabs, and expert opinions, to build a strong case.
  3. Determining Liability: Your attorney will assess whether the establishment violated dram shop laws by serving alcohol to a visibly intoxicated individual or a minor. They will work to establish a clear link between the establishment’s actions and the drunk driving accident or other incident that caused your injuries.
  4. Negotiation and Settlement: If the evidence supports your dram shop liability claim, your attorney can negotiate with the establishment’s insurance company or legal representatives to reach a fair settlement. They will advocate to ensure you receive appropriate compensation for your injuries and losses.
  5. Lawsuit Filing and Representation: If a settlement cannot be reached, your attorney can file a lawsuit against the establishment that served the alcohol. They will handle all legal procedures and court filings and represent you throughout the litigation process and trial.
  6. Maximizing Compensation: Your attorney’s goal is to maximize your compensation. They will explore all potential compensation sources, including the establishment’s insurance policy and/or assets.
  7. Navigating Complex Laws: Laws related to dram shop liability can vary from state to state and often involve intricate legal nuances. An experienced attorney will have a deep understanding of the relevant laws in your jurisdiction and how they apply to your case.
  8. Evidence Presentation: Your attorney will present a compelling case, backed by evidence, to prove that the establishment’s irresponsible alcohol service directly contributed to the drunk driving accident and your injuries.
  9. Expert Witnesses: In dram shop liability cases, expert witnesses such as accident reconstructionists, alcohol service experts, physicians, and/or toxicologists may be necessary to provide professional opinions. Your attorney can locate and work with these experts to strengthen your case.
  10. Peace of Mind: With a knowledgeable attorney handling your dram shop liability claim, you can have peace of mind knowing that your legal rights are protected and you have the best chance of securing the compensation you need and deserve.

Dram Shop Liability Damages

Far too often, people are overserved and innocent third parties suffer serious injuries as a result. If you file a dram shop case, you can be compensated for losses you have sustained due to your injuries. Common losses include: 

  • Medical Expenses – Any injury, whether minor or severe, can quickly become a financial burden for victims. A settlement may provide you the resources you need to recover comfortably. Settlements can also cover future medical expenses. 
  • Pain and Suffering – Not only can injuries be physical, but they can also be mental and emotional, which can have major effects on how people live their daily lives. An attorney can factor pain and suffering into your damages. 
  • Lost Wages – The combination of medical bills and inability to work can quickly become a financial crisis. If your injuries result in you being unable to work, the responsible party should have to compensate. 
  • Property Damage – Drunk driving accidents can cause significant damage to vehicles involved. A settlement can cover the repair or replacement of your vehicle and other property damaged in the incident.
  • Permanent Disability and Disfigurement – Many victims suffer catastrophic mental and physical injuries that require lifelong medical treatment and exorbitant future medical expenses.
  • Wrongful Death – Thousands of victims are killed by drunk drivers every year and the establishments that over-served the intoxicated driver often share responsibility for these needless incidents. 

Bernstein & Bernstein Is Here To Help

A drunk driving accident attorney with expertise in dram shop laws can significantly enhance your chances of holding the establishment accountable for its role in the accident and recovering damages for your injuries and losses. 

If you believe you have a dram shop liability claim, consult with the knowledgeable and experienced attorneys at Bernstein & Bernstein to discuss your case and explore your legal options. Give us a call today for a free consultation.

Schedule a Meeting

To schedule a free initial consultation (now by video), complete the form below: