Can a Bar or Nightclub be Held Liable in a Drunk Driving Crash?

bar top with nothing on itDrunk drivers can be financially liable for the damages they cause in a car accident, but what about the bar or social host that served them alcohol? Under Tennessee’s Dram Shop Law, a drunk driving victim may sometimes be able to bring a claim against the bar or nightclub that was responsible for overserving the at-fault driver.

Below, Greg Coleman Law discusses what the Tennessee Dram Law is, along with the possible implications it could have on a personal injury lawsuit. To discuss the specific circumstances of your claim, contact one of our knowledgeable Knoxville car accident attorneys to schedule a free consultation. During this confidential appointment to review your claim, we can explain whether or not you may have a valid case against a bar or other venue host.

What is Tennessee’s Dram Shop Law?

This law says victims of drunk driving accidents may be able to seek damages from a bar, nightclub or other venue that served alcohol to the at-fault party if:

  • The venue host sold alcohol to a person known to be under 21 and the accident and the victim’s injuries were a direct result of the consumption of alcohol; OR
  • The venue sold alcohol to a person who was visibly intoxicated and the victim’s injuries were a direct result of consuming alcoholic beverages

A jury of 12 people must find beyond a reasonable doubt that the sale of alcohol to the driver was the proximate cause of injury or death. This is a much stricter standard than is applied to other civil claims. Also, a civil claim typically only requires a six-person jury.

When Does Tennessee’s Dram Shop Law Apply?

This type of claim may be brought in addition to any personal injury claim against the drunk driver responsible for the accident.

The victim of the drunk driving accident can pursue compensation against the defendants for the damages that he or she suffered:

  • Medical expenses stemming from the accident, including follow-up care and medication
  • Lost wages
  • Lost earning capacity, if the victim is not able to return to the same job after the accident
  • The value of household services the victim would have performed before suffering an injury
  • Costs to repair or replace the vehicle or other damaged personal property
  • The victim’s pain and suffering

Under the dram shop law, the accident victim has one year from the date of the accident to file this type of claim. If the deadline passes, the injured party can be barred from filing a dram shop claim.

Can Social Hosts Be Held Liable?

Tennessee’s dram shop law is very specific in its language. Liability in a dram shop claim may only apply to an establishment selling alcohol, not to a social host serving drinks to guests free of charge.

However, if the social host served alcohol to an underage guest and that guest was subsequently involved in a car crash, the social host could face criminal charges.

Contact a Knowledgeable Lawyer to Find Out More

If you were injured in a drunk driving accident, it is important to contact an experienced personal injury lawyer who can determine your options for pursuing compensation. The lawyers at Greg Coleman Law can review your claim to determine whether your situation may meet the burden of proof for a dram shop claim.

We offer a free consultation and charge no upfront fees, so there is no risk to contact us to learn more about your rights. We charge no fees for our services unless we are able to recover compensation on your behalf.

Call Greg Coleman Law at (865) 247-0080.

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