What Is the Dram Shop Law?

August 15, 2023
Media Car Accident Lawyers at Eckell Sparks Help People Who Have Been Injured by Drunk Drivers

With the millions of deaths and injuries caused by drunk driving every year, it is no wonder that strict laws are made to reduce these incidents and punish drunk drivers. Some laws can hold the person or place accountable who served a drunk driver alcohol should they cause an accident.

Under the dram shop law:

  • An alcohol vendor can be liable for damages caused by an intoxicated individual if the vendor sold or furnished alcohol to the individual while they were visibly intoxicated.
  • The injuries or damages caused by the visibly intoxicated individual directly resulted from the vendor’s decision to serve the individual.
  • An alcohol vendor can include a business, establishment, or service with a liquor license but can also be a host of a privately hosted party.
  • Dram shop laws are not necessarily cited for drunk driving accidents; they can be cited if a visibly intoxicated person caused any damage or injury.
  • Dram shop claims in Pennsylvania are civil court claims, where liability is expressed through monetary damages. Damage types can include medical bills, treatment bills, lost wages, future wages, and pain and suffering.
  • The deadline to file a dram shop claim is set to Pennsylvania’s statute of limitations. The claim must be filed within two years of the date of injury.

What Does it Mean to Be “Visibly Intoxicated”?

Dram shop claims can be challenging to prove because it is tough to determine who is “visibly intoxicated.” The signs of being visibly intoxicated are generally based on eyewitness accounts. The following are just a few signs of intoxication to look out for:

  • Slurred speech
  • Smell or odor of alcohol on breath or skin
  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Lack of balance, staggered walking, or difficulty standing
  • Falling or stumbling
  • Noticeable change in behavior
  • Poor coordination
  • Impaired motor skills or slow reaction time
  • Impaired judgment
  • Loud or boisterous speaking or shouting
  • Admission to drinking heavily

Witnesses are crucial in dram shop cases as their testimony identifies signs of visible intoxication. This could be other patrons at the bar, guests at the party, or anyone else. It is possible that evidence of intoxication can be seen through surveillance footage or video captured on someone’s phone. This type of evidence may show footage of how drinks were being served that night, which can be helpful if there is no footage of the actual patron acting drunk.

There is also “relation back” evidence that can be used in a dram shop case. This evidence measures the drunk person’s blood alcohol content (BAC). A toxicologist would have to analyze the person’s BAC to prove that they would have appeared drunk when they were served alcohol.

The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board offers a training program for licensed businesses to serve alcohol responsibly. It explains to businesses how their employees can detect signs of intoxication, identify underage people, and how to “cut off” a customer who has been drinking too much.

Media Car Accident Lawyers at Eckell Sparks Help People Who Have Been Injured by Drunk Drivers

If you have been injured in a drunk driving accident, contact our Media car accident lawyers at Eckell, Sparks, Levy, Auerbach, Monte, Sloane, Matthews & Auslander, P.C. Call 610-565-3701 or fill out our online form for an initial consultation. Located in Media and West Chester, Pennsylvania, we serve clients in Delaware County, Chester County, and Montgomery County.