Can I sue a drinking establishment if I'm injured by a drunk driver?
Drunk driving harms responsible road users every day across West Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania. There is no safe way for drivers to drive drunk. Still, far too many drivers are confident in their ability to do so.
According to NHTSA state crash data, drunk driving killed 57 people in West Virginia, 290 in Ohio, and 334 in Pennsylvania during 2018. The countless injuries and deaths that occur each year due to drunk driving can be prevented. Drivers have a responsibility to find a safer alternative after having too much to drink. Bars, restaurants, liquor stores and another establishments also have a duty not to contribute to drunk driving crashes.
How dram shop laws work
Those who run establishments that serve alcohol may be aware of their duty to not serve patrons who are outwardly drunk or people under the age of 21. Some fail to uphold their duty for profit or due to poorly-trained staff.
Dram shop laws are designed to hold these establishments accountable when a patron who shouldn't have been served alcohol gets behind the wheel and causes someone's injury or death.
In West Virginia, Ohio (Ohio Revised Code section 4399.18) and Pennsylvania (Pennsylvania Liquor Code Section 4-497), those who are injured as a result of the negligence of an establishment can file a dram shop claim. The same also applies for social hosts of parties, events and dinners.
While West Virginia doesn't have a dram shop statute, you can still file a claim. This was ruled by the state's Supreme Court in the 1990 case Bailey v. Black.
The dram shop laws in each state don't only apply to car accidents. They also apply to on-site and off-site injuries caused by impaired individuals. Here are two examples:
- A person who is noticeably drunk falls on another individual inside of a bar and knocks that person off his or her stool, resulting in a serious injury.
- A person who is noticeably drunk exits a bar and causes someone's injury outside or while inside of another bar.
Investigating dram shop claims
Whether your injury occurred in a car accident or other incident, you will need an experienced personal injury lawyer who can launch a thorough investigation. This may include:
- Obtaining a copy of the police report, which may include alcohol-related arrests
- Interviewing witnesses
- Checking surveillance camera footage (note, this footage can be erased or copied over quickly)
- Checking cellphone records or social media posts
If you were injured by a drunk driver or patron, contact Recht Law Offices to learn about the legal options available to you. Since 1952, our attorneys have helped injured people throughout West Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania. We take on insurance companies and recover every penny you're entitled to. We offer free and confidential case evaluations.