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Can You Sue a Bar or Restaurant if a Driver Injures You After Drinking There?

December 21, 2020

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Drunk driving is extremely dangerous. When drivers are over the legal limit and get behind the wheel of their vehicles, they put themselves, their passengers, and other motorists at serious risk of injury and even death. The consequences of OVIs and drunk driving crashes are extremely harsh to reflect those dangers and the lack of responsibility that impaired drivers show—but did you know that drivers themselves aren’t the only ones who can be held liable if they hurt others while intoxicated?

What to Know About Ohio’s Dram Shop Law

Yes, in Ohio, drivers injured by drunk motorists can file personal injury lawsuits against businesses and even social hosts if they serve alcohol to those people. This is known as a “dram shop” law, and Ohio is one of a few states that allow it. How does it work? Two criteria make it possible for injured victims to file suit against the parties who supplied alcohol to the drunk drivers who hurt them:
  1. The crash—or other personal injury—occurred on the alcohol supplier’s property and was directly caused by their negligence
  2. The crash—or other personal injury—occurred off the alcohol supplier’s property and the supplier “knowingly sold” or provided alcohol to the noticeably impaired party or the party in general if they were under 21 years old.

Who Can Be Held Liable by the Dram Shop Law?

There are a few parties who can be sued by people injured by guests that they serve alcohol to, including:
  • Bar owners—People go to bars to drink alcohol, so it makes sense that people who leave bars may occasionally—or often—be intoxicated. But it’s up to bartenders and other wait staff to be on the lookout for people who become noticeably impaired. Those people are supposed to be “cut off” from getting more drinks. When that doesn’t happen and they later injure others, the bar owners can be held liable.
  • Restaurant owners—Many restaurants also serve beer, wine, and liquor. As with bars, servers and bartenders in restaurants must keep a close eye on patrons who are drinking. When guests become noticeably intoxicated—or they’ve simply consumed a significant amount of alcohol—they shouldn’t be served any more drinks to avoid liability and creating a danger to others.
Other venues where alcohol may be served include wineries, breweries, taverns, beer gardens, beer festivals, and more. All of those establishments must monitor the alcohol consumption of guests and refuse to serve anyone who is noticeably impaired or under the age of 21.

Private Party Hosts Can’t Be Held Liable—Unless the Drunk Driver is Under 21

Under Ohio’s dram shop law, only licensed vendors can be held liable if a drunk patron or guest hurts someone else as a result of their intoxication. However, hosts of private parties can also be held liable under the state’s social host liability law if the guest was under the age of 21. That means that parents or homeowners can be held liable if they have a party or get-together at their home and an underage person becomes intoxicated and later causes a crash that injures or kills someone. Or it can even apply to someone who is 21 or older who purchased alcohol and allowed their underage friends to consume it, and then one of those friends later hurt another person.

We Always Investigate Drunk Driving Accidents for Dram Shop Liability

At Nurenberg, Paris, Heller & McCarthy, our Ohio drunk driving accident lawyers work hard to get our clients maximum compensation. That often means finding as many liable parties as possible. When it comes to impaired driving crashes, that can include both the drivers themselves and the parties who served or supplied them with alcohol. If you or someone you love was hurt in a drunk driving accident, we’ll gather evidence to determine if they were overserved at a licensed business or, if they were under 21, served at a private party. Then, we’ll work hard to get you the money you’re owed. Contact us today for a free consultation.

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