Drinking and getting behind the wheel of a vehicle is prohibited by law. Sadly, drunk driving cases are increasing, and DUI-related crashes can have devastating consequences. In most drunk-driving cases, the focus is usually on the drunk driver, but did you know another recovery option is available? 

You could hold the bar liable for overserving a drunk driver who caused your injuries after having one too many. Bars and restaurants that over serve already intoxicated customers may be responsible for damages if the patrons later cause an accident. A personal injury law firm in Illinois explains the legal rights and options for an injured victim and how a lawyer can help.  

What Does the Law Say About Bartender Liability in a Personal Injury Case?

You may be eligible to file a claim if a bartender knowingly overserves a driver who later causes a severe crash that leaves you injured. The provision is within the Dram Shop Rule, prohibiting bars and restaurants from knowingly overserving customers or providing alcohol to minors. 

When a business violates this law, and someone later gets injured, the bar or restaurant can be held liable for the damages. In Illinois, the Dram Shop Act is reasonably liberal. It holds that a vendor may be held responsible for injuries caused by a drunk driver as long as:

  • The merchant sold alcohol to the person who caused the injury 
  • The alcohol sold contributed to or caused the plaintiff’s intoxication 
  •  The alcohol caused the intoxication that was the proximate cause of the plaintiff’s injuries 

Liability is imposed against the bartender who served the already intoxicated driver. It can also be against the establishment’s owner, where the alcohol was served or sold. However, a plaintiff must file their claims within two years from the date of the injury. If this is your case, consult a Chicago car accident lawyer for legal guidance. 

How Do Over-Serving Laws Work?

Dram Shop Laws in Illinois only apply across state lines depending on whether the neighboring state has similar dram shop rules. For example, if a driver was served beer at a bar in Michigan and drove away, only to cause an accident in Illinois, the bartender who served them in Michigan can be held liable under this law if Michigan has a similar rule.

However, if the driver had their drinks in Illinois and injured someone in Michigan, the bartender in Illinois can’t be held liable because the accident didn’t happen in Illinois unless Michigan’s dram shop law applies. Under the law in Michigan, vendors can only be held responsible if the plaintiff was a minor or the accused was visibly intoxicated when the bartender served them.

What Are the Elements of a Dram Shop Lawsuit?

It can be challenging to determine if a bartender or establishment knowingly served a driver when they were already intoxicated. That’s why working with a skilled Chicago car accident attorney is crucial if you were injured in an accident where the driver had been overserved at a bar. The attorney can help you prove the following elements:

The Bartender Continued to Serve the Driver Despite Obvious Intoxication

Your lawyer can help you hold the bar that served the driver liable for overserving them while they were intoxicated to the point that the driver posed a danger to themselves or others. For example, a bartender should decide to stop serving a patron who is already having trouble standing up, has slurred speech, acts confused, or other indications of intoxication. Bartenders must be certified to identify the signs of intoxication and stop serving an intoxicated person drinks.

Continuing to serve drinks to the person increases the chances of an accident, especially without a designated driver to get the person home safely. However, proving this would largely depend on the driver’s statement showing they were overserved.

The Driver Caused the Accident in Which You Sustained Injuries After Being Overserved

A bartender can be found liable for your injuries or wrongful death of your loved one in a car accident if the driver got behind the wheel after being overserved. That’s primarily true if the bartender could have reasonably intervened if they knew the driver was planning to drive home but didn’t. The most reasonable primary intervention would have been to stop serving the driver.

What Claims Can I Pursue in a Dram Shop Case?

You can file a third-party claim for drunk driving accidents in Chicago. Most people think of third-party claims when they think of bar owner liability. If an individual decides to drive home after being overserved, loses control of the vehicle, collides with your vehicle, and injures you in the process, you can file a third-party claim against the bar that served the drunk driver.

Third-party Dram Shop claims are complex to pursue under personal injury lawsuits. A bartender may unknowingly overserve an intoxicated person because they appear less drunk than they are, and it can be difficult to prove liability. So, it’s in your best interest to work with a skilled personal injury law firm in Illinois to help create a strong case.

Seek Professional Help Proving Bartender Liability

You can hold the bartender liable for the damages if you got into an accident because of a driver who was overserved in a bar. While you can file a third-party claim, you must prove that the bartender knowingly caused or contributed to the accident by serving alcohol to the driver, causing them to be over-intoxicated. An experienced Chicago car accident attorney can help you.

We have lawyers who can provide the legal help you need. They can investigate the case, take it to trial if necessary, and aggressively fight to help you get every penny you are owed. We can also provide the legal counsel you need to make the best decision. Contact us to schedule a FREE case evaluation.