Hit By a Drunk St. Paddy’s Day Driver – Can You Sue the Bar in FL?


St. Patrick’s day has a long-standing tradition of drinking to excess. Although many engage in this practice all in good fun, it exacts a toll when drunk drivers hit the road.


Between 2012 and 2016, St. Patrick’s Day festivities led to 216 Americans being killed due to drunk driving, and many thousands more were injured.


Unfortunately, many DUI accident victims are innocent people who suffer due to the negligence of another.


In a DUI accident, the drunk driver is pretty much always liable, as he or she made the negligent decision to get behind the wheel intoxicated. What about the bar that served the drunk driver, though?


Most bar owners would argue that that patrons are responsible for their own actions. However, bars and restaurants in Florida have an obligation to serve alcohol responsibly, just as the patrons have an obligation to drink responsibly.


Because of this, in many cases there are circumstances where a bar can be held partially responsible for a DUI accident. The potential liabilities of bars for DUI accidents are covered in state dram shop laws.


If you’re considering seeking compensation for a DUI injury, it’s important to consider the possibility of a dram shop case – particularly if the drunk driver does not have the means to pay out damages, which is often the case.


To this end, we’ve put together this guide covering Florida’s dram shop law, and the specific criteria for a dram shop case.


Dram Shop Laws in Florida


Dram shop laws derive their name from the 18th century, when alcohol was sold in units called “drams.” Currently, 42 states, including Florida, have dram shop laws.


Dram shop laws specifically impose liability on sellers of alcoholic beverages for the negligent acts of intoxicated customers. This allows for the victims of a DUI accident to take legal action against the drinking establishment, so long as certain criteria are met.


Dram Shop Laws in Florida

The specific criteria for dram shop liability varies by state. Florida Statutes section 768.126 explains:


“A person who sells or furnishes alcoholic beverages to a person of lawful drinking age shall not thereby become liable for injury or damage caused by or resulting from the intoxication of such person, except that a person who willfully and unlawfully sells or furnishes alcoholic beverages to a person who is not of lawful drinking age or who knowingly serves a person habitually addicted to the use of any or all alcoholic beverages may become liable for injury or damage caused by or resulting from the intoxication of such minor or person.”


This means that in Florida, a bar can only be held liable for DUI injuries if the bar served alcohol to a minor, or to a person who the establishment knows to be an alcoholic. Unlike in many states, a bar cannot be held liable for overserving a patron who already appears to be intoxicated – which unfortunately is all too common on St. Patrick’s Day.


For example, say that Betsy the bartender serves Diana, who she knows has a drinking problem. If Diana drives home drunk and is injured in an accident, Betsy’s bar could be held liable for Diana’s injuries as well as injuries sustained by any third parties involved in the accident.


Similarly, if Diana is minor, Betsy’s bar could also be held liable for Diana’s injuries, along with anyone else involved in the accident.


Another important distinction is that Florida’s dram shop law does not hold social hosts liable for injuries resulting from serving alcohol at a private event, even to a minor or an alcoholic. However, a social host can still face criminal consequences for giving alcohol to a minor. Of course, if you’re hosting a party yourself, you should still do your part to prevent party guests from driving drunk.


Florida Statutes of Limitation and Compensation for DUI Accidents


Under Florida law, a DUI victim must file a dram shop claim within four years of the accident. After that time, the statute of limitations expires, and it is no longer possible to seek compensation.


A person filing a dram shop claim can seek compensation for the following specific damages:


  • Medical bills for any and all injuries
  • Lost wages due to injury
  • Replacement costs for damaged property
  • Pain and suffering

Florida Statutes of Limitation and Compensation for DUI Accidents


Ultimately what it means is that if you or a loved one fall victim to a DUI accident, you should consider holding the responsible parties accountable by seeking damages. If you’re already pursuing a personal injury claim, it’s important to consider all of your potential options – including exploring the possibility of a dram shop case.



About the Author:


Andrew Winston is a partner at the personal injury law firm of Winston Law. For over 20 years, he has successfully represented countless people in all kinds of personal injury cases, with a particular focus on child injury, legal malpractice, and premises liability. He has been recognized for excellence in the representation of injured clients by admission to the Million Dollar Advocates Forum, is AV Preeminent Rated by the Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory, enjoys a 10.0 rating by AVVO as a Top Personal Injury Attorney, has been selected as a Florida “SuperLawyer” from 2011-2017 – an honor reserved for the top 5% of lawyers in the state – and was voted to Florida Trend’s ”Legal Elite” and as one of the Top 100 Lawyers in Florida and one of the Top 100 Lawyers in the Miami area for 2015, 2016, and 2017.