What is Dram Shop Liability?

Drunk driving accidents can be incredibly traumatic and impose life-changing injuries. In many cases, drunk driving accidents can be fatal. If you have been injured by a drunk driver, you may want to know who you can hold financially responsible for your harm. Specifically, you may want to know if you can go after the person who gave the drunk driver their alcohol. In California, the answer to this question is generally “no.”

Understanding Dram Shop Liability

Many states across the nation have dram shop liability laws that allow accident victims to hold third parties responsible for a drunk driver’s actions. Dram shop liability basically means that if you are a bartender, restaurant, or social host, you can be held financially responsible for damage caused by guests who become intoxicated on your watch. Dram shop liability laws help to encourage party hosts and other dispensers of alcohol to monitor how much alcohol their guests consume. The theory is that if the person who provides alcohol is held responsible, there will be less drunk driving accidents.

Dram Shop Liability in California

California significantly limits the situations in which a third party provider of alcohol can be held financially responsible for a drunk driver’s actions. California Civil Code Section 1714 explains that providing alcohol beverages is not considered the proximate cause of any injuries caused by intoxication. Instead, consuming those alcohol beverages is the proximate cause of any injuries. This puts the liability for injuries squarely on the shoulders of the person who chooses to consume alcohol. Shop owners and party hosts are essentially free from any blame.

Exceptions to California’s Limitation on Dram Shop Liability

There are two situations when the person who provides alcohol can be held responsible for resulting injuries. Both involve supplying alcohol to underage drinkers.

Party Hosts Supplying Alcohol to Minors

Party hosts in California must be careful about who consumes alcohol on their property. If anyone under the age of 21 consumes alcohol in their home and then gets into an accident, an adult party host may be liable for any resulting injuries. In order to prove liability, a victim will have to prove:

  • The adult party host knowingly provided alcoholic beverages,
  • To a person they knew (or should have known) was under the age of 21.

Party hosts can be liable for any injuries resulting from a drunk driving accident, even those suffered by the underage drunk driver himself.

Business Providing Alcohol to an Intoxicated Minor

Businesses that serve alcohol must also be cautious about who is served in their establishment. California Business & Professions Code Section 25602.1 permits a drunk driving accident victim to hold a business responsible for giving alcohol to a minor. Businesses may be liable if:

  • It provides alcohol to an “obviously intoxicated minor,” and
  • Providing this alcohol was the proximate cause of an injury.

Fighting to Recover Damages After a Drunk Driving Accident

If you have been injured because of a drunk driver you may be entitled to monetary compensation. Even though the person who provided the driver with alcohol may not be liable, you still have the option of seeking compensation from the driver himself. The damages you recover from a personal injury claim can be incredibly helpful as you fight to get better after your accident. Damages may be available to compensate for:

  • Medical bills
  • Hospitalization
  • Transportation
  • Rehabilitation
  • Medication
  • Pain and suffering
  • Emotional distress
  • Disfigurement
  • Lost wages, and
  • Disability.

Hiring an attorney to handle your personal injury case will help to make sure that you receive the maximum amount of compensation to which you are entitled. At Citywide Law Group, our Los Angeles car accident attorneys will thoroughly investigate your case and determine every potentially liable party. We will aggressively fight to recover compensation from anyone who may have contributed to your injury-causing accident. Contact us today to request a free consultation and learn more.

Citywide Law Group
12424 Wilshire Blvd Suite 705
Los Angeles, CA 90025