Drunk Drivers and Dram Shop Claims

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As always the holiday season will have more people on the road heading to the mall, visiting family and friends and out socializing at holiday get-togethers. Many of these folks will be enjoying a single cocktail or glass of wine; but then there are those who will use the season as an excuse to over indulge.

At the same time many local companies are busy reserving space at some of our neighborhood restaurants and bars for their upcoming holiday office parties. Generally due to liability concerns, the firm hosting the event will limit the number of alcoholic drinks provided to each person attending. But that doesn’t mean the guy who works next to you in accounting can’t and won’t visit the bar and pay for those extra drinks himself. Then frequently after the official party has ended, many coworkers will continue to socialize with again more alcohol being consumed.

Often both hard-core drinkers and employees who only imbibe on special occasions don’t want to appear intoxicated in front of their boss and co-workers. So instead of handing over their keys, they end up getting behind the wheel of their car. Unfortunately during the 2013 holiday season beginning Thanksgiving weekend and running through New Year’s Eve, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported 830 people killed nationwide due to impaired drivers.

When an accident occurs the at fault driver, whether drunk or sober, is responsible for all injured parties’ medical bills and property damage. Depending on circumstances it may be necessary to file a lawsuit against the driver in order to recoup additional damages for pain, suffering and emotional distress. Then in South Carolina, if the at fault driver was also legally intoxicated, the restaurant or bar which served him or her could potentially be held liable for damages under a dram shop claim. Though this is not a specific “on the books” law, the court system does recognize the validity of this claim based off the criminal statutes of South Carolina Code Section 61-6-2220, which to paraphrase states: any establishment licensed to sell alcohol is prohibited from selling alcoholic beverages to “persons in an intoxicated condition.”

While on the surface this may seem like a complex legal undertaking, the experienced professionals at Dan Pruitt Law Firm have the resources to obtain everything necessary to prove the establishment acted illegally in continuing to serve the drunk driver. These methods may include securing bank and/or credit card statements proving location and amount spent, procuring surveillance footage and if necessary, partnering with a toxicology expert to put into plain English the evidence which will need to be presented.

Since the main objective of filing a dram shop claim is to bring additional sources of financial assistance to the injured party, often along with the establishment, individuals such as the restaurant manager, the bartender and the server may also be named in the suit, though in most cases liability is on the shoulders of the business that employed the workers. Frequently due to the nature of the business many tavern and restaurant owners carry significant commercial liability insurance policies which cover individual employees.

As you can see from this very short overview, dram shop claims can be a complex legal situation requiring the attention of an attorney with extensive experience in this particular area. If you or a member of your family has suffered due to an alcohol related accident please contact us today. We here at Dan Pruitt Law Firm believe you should always be properly compensated for any harm an intoxicated driver has caused.

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