If you’ve been injured by a drunk driver in Atlanta, you have rights. State law allows you to recover the full cost of your injuries, plus sizable cash awards for pain, suffering and other losses. What you may not realize is that the driver who hit you is not the only one responsible. In many cases, the store or bar that provided them with alcohol may also carry liability for the accident. “Dram shops,” or businesses that sell alcohol, have duties under the law not to serve minors—or over-serve adults. You should speak to an Atlanta dram shop liability lawyer immediately.
John Foy & Associates can help. For over 20 years we have dedicated our entire practice to helping the victims of accidents and injuries. We have successfully represented the victims of DUI accidents and helped them achieve sizable financial recoveries. When you call us, we will sit down with you for a free in-depth consultation and help you decide whether you have a dram shop claim, a claim against the driver, or both. Don’t face the aftermath of your injury alone. Contact us at 404-400-4000 and get your free consultation today.
How do Atlanta’s dram shop liability laws work?
A dram shop is simply an old fashioned, legalistic term for a business that sells alcohol. In the City of Atlanta, businesses (and individuals) that serve alcohol have certain legal duties—including not giving any alcohol to minors or to people who are obviously already intoxicated. This is commonly known as “over-serving.” It’s the reason that a bartender will “cut off” someone who has already had too much.
In some states, including Georgia, dram shops who fail to do this can be held liable for the consequences. So, for example, if a bartender continues selling shots to someone who appears heavily drunk, and that person goes on to drive home and cause an accident, the bartender shares liability for the injuries caused. The same goes for a convenience store that sells beer to someone drunk, or a party host who provides alcohol to minors.
Isn’t the drunk driver liable for their own actions? Why make a claim against someone else?
Yes, drunk drivers are always legally responsible for any accident they cause, including the full cost of injuries. But they don’t bear that responsibility alone. Georgia law takes a firm stance against over-serving alcohol or providing it to minors. This is for several reasons:
- The DUI accident may never have happened if the bartender or store owner had refused to serve the driver.
- Many DUI drivers do not have insurance and cannot pay the claims they owe their victims. By extending liability to the alcohol provider, it’s more likely that the victim—you—can get your costs paid.
- Holding store owners liable sends a strong message that they must be careful in who they serve alcohol to.
If you do have a valid claim against a dram shop, we can file claims against them and against the driver at the same time. You are entitled to 100% of your costs and damages, and both parties (or their insurance) may have to pay.
How do I know if a dram shop is liable in my particular case?
It depends. If you were injured by a drunk driver, you always have a claim against the driver themselves. But you may or may not also have a claim against whoever provided them alcohol. These claims are most common in two circumstances:
- Underage drivers. Anytime someone under 21 drives drunk, it automatically raises questions of who provided the alcohol. In many cases the source of the alcohol knew the person was under 21 and let them drink anyway. If this is the case, there is always a claim of liability against that person.
- Extremely inebriated drivers. Adults 21 and over have the right to drink, and businesses can sell them alcohol. But if the person is heavily impaired, it’s likely that they already appeared drunk when they purchased their last drink. This suggests that someone knowingly over-served them.
The only way to be sure whether you have a dram shop claim is to investigate what happened before the accident. At John Foy & Associates, we have an investigative team. We can find out where the drunk driver was before they got behind the wheel, and who was there with them. We may be able to get eyewitness testimony, security cam footage or other evidence that shows who served them and whether they were already visibly drunk. We may also be able to find out where underage drinkers got their alcohol from.
What kinds of businesses count as dram shops?
Any business can be liable for a dram shop claim if it serves or sells alcohol. This is true even if the business serves alcohol illegally, and whether or not they have liability insurance. The most common businesses that count as dram shops include:
- Liquor stores
- Convenience stores
- Night clubs
Businesses are aware of the liability they face by vending alcohol and they accept a moral duty to do it responsibly.
What about the host of a party? Can they be held liable for over-serving alcohol?
Yes. This is very common in situations where a minor drives drunk. Typically, minors drink at house parties or other informal gatherings, not out at bars or clubs. The person who provided them with alcohol can be held liable for their DUI accident, if that person was aware they were under 21 (or failed to ask about their age). This is known as “social host liability” and the local courts treat it exactly the same as dram shop liability.
In many cases, a minor’s own parents are held responsible for giving them access to alcohol. You can also have a social host claim against a drunk driver of any age, if the party host over-served them. Employers, homeowners or anyone else who provided alcohol at a party may be liable. It is always the person who provided or served the alcohol, not necessarily the owner of the premises, who is responsible.
How is it determined whether a dram shop (or social host) will be held liable?
Georgia’s 1988 Dram Shop Act gives clear criterion. The person or business who provided alcohol can be held liable if the following is true:
- They served alcohol to a minor, or to an adult who was visibly drunk; and
- They had reason to believe the person would soon be driving a vehicle
Dram shop and social host claims can be a vital way to get the full amount of money you need for your medical bills and other costs. We strongly urge the victims of all DUI accidents to speak to an experienced dram shop liability lawyer.
Talk to an Atlanta Dram Shop Lawyer for Free
Many lawyers say they take on DUI accident cases, but few have dedicated themselves exclusively to helping victims. At John Foy & Associates we always represent the victims, never the drunk drivers or big insurance companies. We also offer a free consultation and a guarantee that we charge nothing unless we win you money. Let us help you. Call us at 404-400-4000 or fill out the form to your right and get your FREE consultation today.