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Are Bars Liable for Over-Serving Customers Who Get into Accidents?

Are Bars Liable for Over-Serving Customers Who Get into Accidents?

Although motorists have a legal obligation to drink responsibly and never drive impaired, bars and other commercial establishments that serve alcohol have a similar responsibility to never enable drunk driving in the first place. Nearly 5,000 alcohol-related accidents occur in Arizona annually, so the onus is on everybody, not just drinkers, to try to keep impaired drivers from getting behind the wheel. Understanding drunk driving laws in Arizona is the first step in the process, but from there, it can be helpful to know about more specific cases of over-serving.

Dram Shop Laws and Drunk Drivers

Legislation that allows for the prosecution of commercial establishments for over-serving alcohol is generally referred to as a “dram shop law,” “dram” being a dated unit of measurement for liquids. Provided that certain prerequisites for unreasonable alcohol sales/ over-serving are met, a bar can be held liable by a third party for any accident caused by their customer:

  • Are Bars Liable for Over-Serving Customers Who Get Into Accidents?The establishment sold alcohol to a minor or someone who was “obviously intoxicated” (“obviously intoxicated” referring to extreme physical discoordination and other such signs that would be clearly obvious to any reasonable person).
  • The purchaser then consumed the alcohol sold by the establishment.
  • The consumption of said alcohol was a proximate cause of property damage, injury, or death caused by the intoxicated purchaser.

If the establishment could not have reasonably known that the purchaser was severely intoxicated, namely by the individual holding their alcohol well/ not exhibiting significant physical symptoms, then the establishment cannot be held liable. However, even if the bar sold the individual, say, only one light drink while they were obviously intoxicated, then the bar could be held liable for any resultant auto accident despite hardly contributing to their BAC.

“Proximate cause” is also a vital part of this phrasing, meaning that the accident must have been relatively immediate and was correlated to alcohol consumption. If the drunk driver was struck by the exclusive fault of another motorist, or if they left, drank for hours longer, and then got into an accident later that day, then the bar that sold them alcohol despite seeing that they were obviously intoxicated arguably couldn’t be held liable.

Drunk Driving Auto Accident Compensation in Arizona

If you’ve been in an accident with a drunk driver, you have the right to file civil lawsuits against the drunk driver, but also against any establishment, server, or barkeep that knowingly served that driver alcohol despite their visible intoxication. Determining fault is a complex affair, and on your own, it can be difficult to prove that the establishment’s sales were a “proximate cause” of the drunk driver’s accident, especially if there was any measure of time between the time of sale and the collision. 

Don’t let over-serving ruin your health, finances, and life. You deserve comprehensive compensation for all of your damages, so if you were hurt in an over-served drunk driving accident, consult an Arizona drunk driving auto attorney today at ELG by calling us at (623) 877-3600. Our compassionate lawyers can prove fault on all accounts and secure your settlement, all while taking the burden of a complex case off of your shoulders, giving you time to focus on recovery and personal affairs.