Thursday, December 14, 2017

Dram Shop Laws in Florida

The first question that comes to mind when you hear the term “dram shop” is probably, “What in the world is a dram shop?”
Dram shop is an old term used to describe an establishment, such as a bar or restaurant, that serves alcoholic beverages to its patrons (but generally does not include liquor stores). In some states, the term also encompasses “social hosts” who serve alcohol to their guests, such as at dinner parties. The term prevails today because of dram shop laws, which about thirty states have passed. In accordance with these laws, patrons may hold business establishments liable for injuries caused by off-premises actions as a result of intoxication.
History of Dram Shop Laws
Traditional English law regulated the purchase and intake of alcohol since before the United States was established. It was after the Twenty-first Amendment repealed Prohibition in 1933, however, that it fell to the states to pass their own dram shop laws to help protect and compensate the public for injuries caused by intoxication. In one form or another, dram shop laws came into effect in many states, including Florida, but the majority of these laws only imposed liability on a business establishment in limited circumstances.
Despite the age and history of dram shop laws, they are still relevant. For example, a few years ago, a terrible car crash occurred in North Carolina in which a young couple was severely injured and their unborn child killed because of a driver who crashed into them with an alleged blood alcohol level of three times the legal limit. The driver had just left a bar that had served him at least 10 drinks during a two-hour, 10-minute period, according to USA Today. In this case, victims held the establishment negligent because bar employees knew or should have known that the patron was intoxicated and should have stopped serving him.
Florida’s Dram Shop Law
Florida’s dram shop law declares serving alcoholic beverages to underage patrons or habitual drunks negligence, and allows victims to hold establishments liable for damages that result from the intoxication of those people. Businesses, however, are not liable for injuries caused by the intoxication of people older than the lawful drinking age (unless they are “habitually addicted to the use of any or all alcoholic beverages“).
It is often easy to determine whether someone served an underage patron or guest. That someone is a habitual drunk whom the business establishment’s personnel knew they should not have served is more difficult to prove.
If intoxication caused an accident, a blood alcohol level of less than the legal limit generally does not absolve a business of liability. Victims of alcohol-related accidents may ask whether an establishment is liable for “over serving” alcohol to a clearly intoxicated patron. For example, a bartender who witnesses the following signs of intoxication should generally cease to serve the patron alcohol, especially if the patron clearly plans to drive:
  • Slurred speech
  • Loud or obnoxious behavior
  • Lack of motor skills
  • Strong smell of alcohol on the breath
  • Illness

In this case, a business establishment may face liability for negligence for increasing the danger that a drunken patron will cause a DUI-related accident.
Types of Injuries With Alcohol-Related Causes
A car accident is one of the most dangerous types of alcohol-related accidents because the drunk driver is probably operating a two-ton vehicle at high speeds, which can cause severe injuries or death. Horrible DUI-related crash injuries include traumatic brain and spinal damage, and miscarriages such as in the North Carolina case. Assault and battery-related injuries, such as broken bones, can result if the patron gets into a fight inside or outside the establishment or into a domestic dispute.
Seeking Compensation for Your Injuries
If a drunken individual injured you, whether in a car or truck accident, or as the result of an assault, the law may entitle you to compensation directly from the individual, from that person’s insurance company, or from the “dram shop” or social host who served the alcohol. Speak with your personal injury attorney about seeking compensation for:
  • Medical bills
  • Property damage
  • Mental health bills
  • Medical equipment
  • Prescription medications
  • Pain and suffering

In cases of especially severe negligence by the individual or the dram shop, such as when a bar has served an intoxicated driver more than a dozen drinks, speak with your attorney about the potential for punitive damages. These additional damages compensate you for injuries and pain and suffering, and punish the offender’s extremely negligent behavior.
If you or a loved one were injured in an accident or were assaulted by an intoxicated person in the greater Tampa Bay area, consider whether someone who served the alcohol should bear liability. It can take time to trace the facts of your case to determine whether someone indirectly contributed to the accident and should help compensate you for your injuries. Take advantage of your no-risk, free consultation with the Dolman Law Group. They are here to fight for your right to compensation, and they can advise you as to whether you have a claim for negligence against a dram shop or social host under Florida law. Contact them online today or at (727) 451-6900.
Dolman Law Group
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33765

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