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Dram Shop Liability an Issue in Million Dollar Personal Injury Settlement

Every time a person gets behind the wheel of a vehicle, he or she inherently takes responsibility for his or her actions when piloting the automobile. But drivers aren’t always the only responsible parties.

Under Illinois car accident injury law, liability on the part of taverns, liquor stores, and other commercial establishments that serve alcoholic beverages, is what’s known as “Dram Shop Liability.” As a general rule, Dram Shop laws establish responsibility on the part of establishments that arises out of the sale of alcohol to visibly intoxicated persons; if an establishment – or a person acting on behalf of the establishment, such as a bartender or waitress – serves alcohol to a person who seems to be drunk, and the intoxicated patron later causes death or injury to a third-party, the business may be partially liable for negligently contributing to cause that harm. Unsurprisingly, this type of law is often present in Chicago personal injury lawsuits surrounding alcohol-related car crashes
Dram Shop laws are intended to protect the general public from the hazards of actions by drunken persons by creating an incentive – as well as an justification – for businesses to exercise discretion. Nevertheless, apportioning responsibility to the liquor-serving establishment does not eradicate the driver’s personal responsibility. Every driver owes a duty of reasonable care to his or her passengers, other drivers and passengers on the road, and pedestrians. When that duty of care is breached and the driver acts recklessly or negligently – including in situations of driving while under the influence – accidents can and do happen. When they occur, the driver may be held responsible for his or her actions, both in criminal court, and in civil court, and may be forced to pay compensation to victims for the injuries and resulting costs.

Both of these principles were in play during a lawsuit on behalf of a couple who lost their unborn son in a crash with a drunk driver, reported the Associated Press. Even though the drunk driver died in the accident, a jury determined he was responsible, along with the bar that served him, and awarded more than a million dollars to the man and woman.

The Associated Press reported that, during the trial, surveillance video from inside the restaurant showed the 25-year old driver consuming four beers and six double Grand Marniers – the legal equivalent of 15 drinks – in a span of 2 hours. Later in the video, the man seemed unsteady on his feet and at one point he bumped a chair and a wall on his way to the bathroom.

Ultimately the 25 year-old drove away from the restaurant. The Associated Press detailed the fact that he was speeding, lost control of the car, and crashed into the couple’s SUV, less than a mile from the establishment.

At the time of the accident, the woman was 6 months pregnant; her uterus ruptured and the injuries from the crash claimed the life of her unborn son. The man also suffered serious injuries, including a collapsed lung. The 25 year-old was pronounced dead at the scene.

The couple’s attorney filed suit against both the estate of the 25 year-old, and the restaurant they said negligently served alcohol to the driver, claiming that the business was responsible under the notion of Dram Shop Liability.

Injuries suffered as a result of these types of accidents can be severe and life altering. Our Chicago personal injury lawyers want people to be safe. If you or a loved one have been injured in a motor vehicle accident that is the result of another driver’s negligent behavior, contact an attorney to better understand your rights under the law. Our attorneys have enormous experience handling automobile accident cases, and even obtained a $2.07 million verdict for a 23-year-old woman who suffered multiple leg fractures in an automobile collision.

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