Dram shop liability covers a wide range of different types of establishments and activities–bars, country clubs, restaurants and social events. When individuals who serve alcohol at such places do not take public welfare into account and over-serve their customers, innocent people are often the ones who have to pay the price for this carelessness.

Dram shop cases can be particularly difficult. The attorneys of Raynes Lawn Hehmeyer have been successful in many cases involving dram shop laws in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, and are deeply skilled at uncovering the facts behind these kinds of cases.

Suffering injuries in a drunk driving accident or an assault by an intoxicated person can leave you facing serious injuries along with a long path to recovery and substantial economic losses. You may have bills that are piling up while you have also suffered income losses from an inability to return to your job. In addition to filing a civil lawsuit against the intoxicated person who negligently or intentionally caused your injuries, most state’s laws, including Pennsylvania, also allow you to seek the recovery of compensation from the establishment that sold alcohol to the perpetrator when he or she was visibly intoxicated.

If an intoxicated person has injured you, you may be able to file a civil lawsuit against the tavern, bar, nightclub, restaurant or stadium that sold him or her alcohol if he or she was obviously intoxicated at the time. The lawyers at Raynes Lawn Hehmeyer may be able to help you with your claims against both the intoxicated person and determine who provided him or her alcohol to maximize the amount of your recovery.

What is a dram shop law in Pennsylvania?

A dram shop law is a law that covers businesses that sell alcoholic beverages. The law gets its name from a British measurement called a dram. Dram shop laws mandate that businesses stop serving alcohol to people who are visibly intoxicated. Traditionally, the laws were designed to change the drinker’s behavior, but they have evolved to focus on protecting other people from the actions of the intoxicated person.

Under Pennsylvania’s dram shop law, businesses are not permitted to sell alcohol to people who appear to be intoxicated or who are underage. Liquor stores, restaurants, bars, nightclubs, stadiums and other entities that regularly sell alcoholic beverages must not sell them to people who are already intoxicated or to underage people. When a business sells alcoholic beverages to a visibly intoxicated or underage person, the business may be held liable to pay damages if the drinker subsequently injures or causes the death of someone else.

Dram shop violations

Violations of the dram shop law in Pennsylvania include:

  • Selling alcohol to someone who is visibly intoxicated
  • Selling alcohol to someone younger than age 21
  • Selling alcohol without a license
  • Selling alcohol after hours

When an obviously intoxicated person in a bar asks for another drink, the cocktail server or bartender is supposed to refuse and should offer to call a cab for the person. If the bartender or server goes ahead and allows the intoxicated person to continue drinking, the business may be liable to pay damages to anyone who is subsequently injured in a drunk driving accident or assault by the drinker.

Proving fault in dram shop claims

While the state’s dram shop law allows you to recover damages from the establishment that provided alcohol to the intoxicated person who injured you, proving liability can be difficult. Bartenders may not know whether a patron has a low alcohol tolerance or may not have eaten. In some cases, they might be unaware that the person was already intoxicated before he or she arrived at the bar.

To prove liability under Pennsylvania’s dram shop law, you will need to prove the following:

  • The bar or other establishment sold or provided alcohol to a person who was visibly intoxicated and/or underage.
  • The patron’s intoxication was a proximate or direct cause of the accident and injuries.
  • The plaintiff suffered harm as a result.

In Pennsylvania, visible intoxication means that a person has an apparent decrease in the ability to act and think normally. To establish that the intoxication was a proximate cause of the injury, plaintiffs can show that serving the person alcohol added to the person’s level of intoxication and that the intoxicated state contributed to the harm. You do not have to prove that the additional alcohol that was served or sold to the driver after he or she was visibly intoxicated was the only cause of the accident. This means that an establishment cannot argue that the driver was already intoxicated when he or she arrived to defend against a claim.

You may be able to prove your claim even if there is no eyewitness testimony that the patron was showing signs of intoxication when served alcohol. An experienced lawyer will investigate your case through careful analysis, closely reviewing police reports, laboratory testing, securing statements from witnesses both inside and outside of the establishment and reviewing video.  They can also consult with toxicology experts who may be able to support the claim through detailed analysis of the way the human body metabolizes alcohol over time.

Potential damages in a dram shop claim

The damages that you may recover in a dram shop liability claim will depend on the extent, nature, and severity of your injuries. Since every case has unique injuries and facts, the damages that may be recovered will vary from case to case. Some of the types of damages that may be recoverable include:

  • Past and future medical expenses
  • Past and future income losses
  • Property losses
  • Physical pain and suffering
  • Mental anguish
  • Scarring and disfigurement
  • Disability
  • Loss of the ability to enjoy life
  • Loss of consortium

Get help from the attorneys at Raynes Lawn Hehmeyer

If you have been injured by an intoxicated person in a drunk driving accident or an assault, you may have legal rights to recover compensation from the negligent or wrongful person who injured you and the bar or another establishment that furnished alcohol to him or her. Contact the attorneys at Raynes Lawn Hehmeyer today to schedule a consultation by filling out our online contact form or call 1-800-535-1797. If we agree to accept your claim, we will work hard to hold all of the defendants accountable for their actions.

If you or a loved one has been critically injured do to someone else’s negligence, please click here to fill out the contact form, or call 1-800-535-1797 and someone from our team will be ready to help.

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