Everyone knows that drinking and driving often leads to collisions and may cause major injuries or deaths. When you’ve been hurt by a drunk driver, there’s no question that the driver’s behavior caused the accident. In some cases, however, Pennsylvania law allows the establishment that served the alcohol to also be held liable for your injury under dram shop rules.
What Is the Pennsylvania Dram Shop Law?
The archaic term “dram shop” simply refers to an entity that legally serves alcohol, and dram shop laws exist to deter businesses from overserving individuals. To put it simply, if a bar or casino serves alcohol to a visibly intoxicated individual and then that person gets behind the wheel and causes an accident, the business may be on the hook for covering the victim’s medical costs and loss of wages.
Pennsylvania doesn’t count house parties that feature alcohol as a dram shop, however, so it's important to understand what separates a dram shop case and a social host liability case. The hosts of private parties aren’t held to the same standard as a business serving alcohol, but social host liability does come into play if anyone under the age of 21 consumes alcohol at the event. Even if the intoxicated minor leaves the party and then causes an accident, the host providing the alcohol can still be held legally responsible.
Although commonly used in cases involving vehicle collisions, those aren’t the only times that dram shop and social host liability laws come into play. They can also include instances where someone is overserved and then gets into a violent physical altercation, or even a scenario where the drunk individual hurts themselves by tripping and falling.
In some cases, pursuing legal action against the business or party host is a better route to go for recovering damages as you deal with an injury and loss of work. This is especially true if your injuries end up costing more than the insurance payout maximums, or if the drunk driver simply doesn’t have the assets available to cover your costs. Injuries caused by drunk driving cases tend to be severe, and costs may include:
- Any initial medical expenses like an ambulance ride, ER visit, and hospital stay
- Broken bones and ongoing treatment for pain and mobility issues
- Disfigurement, permanent scarring, or loss of limbs
- Economic damages if you can’t return to work or get passed over for a promotion while recovering
- Emotional damage from pain and suffering caused by the accident
- Property damage if the at-fault party struck your car or their vehicle collided with your home
- Therapies, treatments, and surgeries you may need in the future
- Various out-of-pocket expenses not covered by insurance
- Wrongful death of a loved one if they didn’t survive the collision
Evidence You Need for a Dram Shop or Social Host Case
To bring a successful dram shop case, you need to prove two key points, First, your attorney must provide evidence the at-fault party was visibly drunk at the time they were served additional alcohol. Meeting the legal standard of being visibly drunk may include:
- Difficulty standing and walking
- Obviously impaired speech, such as yelling or slurring words, meandering sentences, difficulty maintaining a train of thought, etc.
- Red eyes
Second, an experienced personal injury attorney needs to show that the overserving of alcohol was directly responsible for the accident, which may involve:
- Determining what occurred between the time the last drink was served and the time of the accident
- Interviewing eyewitnesses
- Accessing surveillance footage
- Going through employment details
- Using police and medical records
Additionally, a statute of limitations in Pennsylvania only gives you two years to file a dram shop lawsuit from the date of the injury. Investigations take time, which is why it is best to contact an attorney as soon as possible after the collision.
Find Out If You Have a Strong Case After Your Accident
Did you suffer an injury or has a loved one passed away after a drunk driving collision? Let us know about your situation and we can get in touch for a consultation to determine if Heslin Law Firm is the right fit for your case.