What are DC’s dram shop laws and what do they mean for your case?

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Restaurants and bars that serve alcohol have a responsibility to protect the public from drunk drivers, according to the law. Washington, DC, and 43 states have laws called dram shop laws that govern the conduct of bars and restaurants in evaluating whether or not to serve alcohol.

So, if you’ve been injured in a drunk driving accident where the driver came from a bar or restaurant that served him or her alcohol, you might have a case against that establishment as well.

Dram shop laws are designed to protect the public. They outline rules for not serving alcohol to minors as well as watching for signs of drunkenness from patrons or for individuals who are known to be drunkards.

DC’s dram shop law

Dram shop laws vary from state to state. DC’s law is covered in section 25-781. The law states that an establishment must not serve alcohol to anyone under the age of 21, to an intoxicated person or a person who looks to be intoxicated, or someone who is known to drink excessively.

The rule for not serving anyone under the age of 21 also applies to these young people not drinking on the premises at all. In some areas, parents or guardians can purchase alcohol and permit their child to drink it. However, in DC this is not permissible and no one under the age of 21 may consume alcohol while on the premise. Failure to monitor and comply with this rule can mean that the restaurant or bar faces fines.

A license to sell alcohol does not enable an establishment to sell alcohol on a whim. They still must follow the dram shop laws for their area and failure to do so can mean more than just fines. It can mean that individuals who are injured at the hands of those who drank too much have a right to sue the dram shop for damages.

The penalties that these restaurants and bars face for failing to comply are hefty, starting with $2,000 and going as high as $30,000 and revocation of the establishment’s license to sell alcohol. Five violations of the law within a 4-year time period will mean that the establishment loses its license.

This might be helpful information if you are seeking damages from an establishment that already has a slew of violations with the dram shop laws. They will be even more defensive of the case to avoid losing their license.

Proving dram shop fault in drunk driving accidents

DC’s laws do not specifically outline the ability for injury victims of drunk accidents to sue the establishment that served them too much alcohol. However, there is case law that does make this sort of case permissible.

The most common personal injury case stemming from dram shop laws is a drunk driving car accident. If a person leaves a restaurant or bar that has violated dram shop laws and hurts someone out on the roads, that establishment can be held liable, in addition to the driver and his or her insurance company being held liable.

However, there are other types of injuries that establishments can be responsible for. For example, someone who shows signs of intoxication, but the restaurant or bar continues to serve them could cause an accident because of their inability to walk. Falling over onto other patrons or causing other patrons to fall down the stairs or into other hazards can be another case for personal injury claims under dram shop laws.

Damages you can seek

Like any other personal injury case, you can seek compensation for your medical bills, including prescriptions and any necessary rehabilitation or counseling services. You can also get compensation for lost wages while you recover from your injuries and have to be away from work. If you are unable to work permanently or for an extended period of time, you can seek lost future wages as well.

Another area where you might seek compensation is for help around the house while you recover. This might include a house cleaner or a childcare provider that you would not otherwise need if you hadn’t been put through such a hardship.

Finally, you can seek compensation for you pain and suffering related to the accident.

You must file your case within three years of the date of your injury. This is known as the statute of limitations and the courts take it seriously. It is best to retain a lawyer as soon as possible following a personal injury so that they can advise you on next steps.

Gore and Kuperman is a law firm licensed in DC and experienced in dram shop laws and personal injury. Let us represent you.