If someone has one drink too many in a bar and gets behind the wheel and later has an accident, the bar who served that person can be held liable. Bartenders are expected to cut people off if they have had too many drinks and seem intoxicated.

The legal term for holding a bar liable if they over-serve someone falls under the Dram Shop law. If a patron leaves the bar drunk and driving and then injures or kills someone in a crash, not only are they personally liable, but the bar that served them can also be held liable for the injury or loss of life. States differ on how the dram shop law is applied, but generally speaking, four factors are looked at in drunk driving cases:

  • Can it be proven that the person purchased alcohol at that establishment?
  • Did injuries occur?
  • Did the alcohol sold to the person cause them to be drunk?
  • The drunkenness was at least partly to blame for the injuries sustained.

In defense of the bar

The bar may claim that the patron is responsible for their own drinking and knowing their own limits. If a jury agrees with this argument, then some of the blame could fall to the party who was drinking. This determination of fault or contribution allows for at least a portion of the blame to shift over to the intoxicated party.

In New York, in order to establish liability against the establishment, it must be shown that the establishment knew or should have known the individual was already impaired at the time they were served or that the individual was underage.

In any case, a skilled attorney knows that these factors may be considered when someone seeks damages, in addition to pursuing compensation from the patron’s insurance company.