Driving drunk is a serious offense because of the danger to the driver and everyone around them. When a drunk driver causes an accident, their actions make them obviously liable – but what about the establishment that served them alcohol?
It is possible in Florida to hold bars liable if they over-serve patrons and allow them to drive. Specific laws, called “dram shop laws”, apply to cases like this in the state of Florida.
Here’s what you need to know about dram shop laws in Florida, including how you might be able to hold a bar responsible for injuries from an accident with a drunk driver.
Dram Shop Laws in Florida
Over the years, the liability of establishments that sell liquor have changed. As early as 1962, the Florida Supreme Court made rulings in favor of those injured as a result of the irresponsible sale of alcohol.
In 1980, the Florida legislature officially passed dram shop laws. The statute states that anyone injured in a drunk driving accident can file a dram shop lawsuit – if they can prove one of two aspects of the circumstance.
- The underage drunk driver was underage for legal alcohol consumption
- An establishment served alcohol to a known alcoholic
Cases involving underage drinkers are not that difficult to prove. If a bar illegally serves alcohol to a minor, and that minor goes on to cause a motor vehicle accident, the bar can be held liable for injuries sustained in the accident.
However, the second circumstance is much harder to demonstrate. You would need to show that the establishment knowingly served someone addicted to alcohol. While far more difficult to prove in court, it has been done.
The Visibly Intoxicated Standard
Florida maintains a standard of visible intoxication, along with other states. The standard is met if:
- An establishment serves a visibly intoxicated patron, and
- The workers at the establishment knew – or should have known – the patron was intoxicated and a danger to others
Additional evidence often works to bolster a dram shop case, such as:
- Whether or not the bar asked for identification before serving
- They served after the posted closing time of the establishment
- They served an amount they knew would lead to intoxication
It’s vital to remember that cases like this have a statute of limitations. So if you’ve been injured in an accident with a drunk driver, you should speak to a DUI accident attorney as soon as possible to check your legal options for filing a case.
What About a Social Host?
Another question often asked: can a social host be held liable if someone leaves their home intoxicated and later gets into an accident?
In Florida, current dram shop laws do not apply to social hosts, even if the drunk driver is a minor. It’s important to keep in mind, however, that other laws can come into play in this instance, like furnishing a minor with alcohol.
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, and named one of America’s Top 100 High-Stakes Litigators. Mr. Winston 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 2011-2020 – an honor reserved for the top 5% of lawyers in the state – was voted to Florida Trend’s ”Legal Elite,” recognized by Expertise as one of the 20 Best Fort Lauderdale personal injury attorneys, named one of the Top 100 Lawyers in the Miami area for 2015-2017, and one of the Top 100 Lawyers in Florida for 2015-2017 and 2019.