Dram shop liability is a way to shift responsibility for a drunk driving accident from the intoxicated person to the one who served them. The laws exist because of the general knowledge that, at some point in time, intoxicated people become unable to judge whether or not they are capable of driving. Sober people around them, such as bartenders or servers, should stop serving them to help prevent these accidents. An Indianapolis dram shop liability lawyer could help you further understand these laws as it relates to your car accident claim.
The name “dram shop” dates back to 18th century England, where they sold gin by the dram, which is a measure of volume equivalent to a spoonful. They called those establishments “dram shops.” The name stuck when states began enacting laws that would shift liability to bars, pubs, and other establishments that overserved intoxicated customers.
Indiana Code § 7.1-5-1-15.5 establishes the state’s Dram Shop Act. The law has a two-part test to determine if the person who furnished the alcohol could be liable for damages. The first tests asks if the person knew the consumer was intoxicated. To determine that, the court will examine whether there was evidence of intoxication, such as slurred words, stumbling, vomiting, and other erratic behavior. However, a person does not have to be visibly drunk for the law to apply. The court can also examine how much alcohol the host served the person in a specific time.
Next, the host had to be able to foresee the harm. For example, an injury is foreseeable if the host allows the intoxicated person to drive home. On the other hand, if the host places the intoxicated person in a taxi and sends them home, but they subsequently get in another vehicle and drive after they get home, that would not be foreseeable. An injured party should contact an Indianapolis dram shop liability attorney to get an opinion about a specific scenario.
Indiana state law does not distinguish between commercial establishments and private hosts. Private hosts who overserve their guests may be liable under the law. Social hosts, commercial hosts, and owners of stores that sell alcohol could also be liable. Anyone should avoid overserving someone who may be driving; and serving a minor could trigger the law, even if the child is not visibly intoxicated. A lawyer in Indianapolis could help an injured person understand what the host’s obligations were under the Dram Shop Act.
Most dram shop cases focus on auto accidents, since driving while intoxicated is a foreseeable consequence of overserving someone. Nothing about the law, however, limits it to auto accidents. If it was foreseeable that the person’s intoxication would lead to the injury, the person who overserved them could be liable.
This law could theoretically cover scenarios like assault if the person who committed the assault were intoxicated. A lawyer could explore the dram shop liability precedent in Indianapolis and provide an opinion about whether it applies to the plaintiff’s situation.
At some point, an intoxicated person loses the rational ability to stop drinking. Hosts need to cut them off and refuse to overserve them. When they fail to do so, they could be liable for injuries and damages. Hosts may even be responsible for damages that the intoxicated person experiences. Contact an Indianapolis dram shop liability lawyer to see if this law might apply in your injury.