What in the world is a “Dram Shop” action?

by | Aug 18, 2016 | Lawyer Greenville SC

When someone is injured by a drunk driver, they may recover damages from the drunk drivers’ car insurance company. They may also have a dram shop action against businesses that served the drunk driver alcohol  when they person was visibly intoxicated or underage.

Those suits brought against the restaurant or bar after an accident caused by a drunk person are brought under dram shop laws.  A “dram shop” is the old legal name for a seller of alcohol.  Traditionally, it referred to a shop where spirits were sold by the dram, a small unit of liquid.

Most of the time the drunk driver does not have enough insurance to cover the damages they cause.

Many times the drunk driver doesn’t have the insurance or other resources to cover the damage they cause others.  Many individuals have no or insufficient auto liability insurance, and sometimes accidents are so serious that a plaintiff’s damages will be greater than the auto liability policy limits required by law. South Carolina law only requires that a driver carry $25,000 per person liability coverage. In these situations where an individual is injured by a drunk driver, the bar, liquor, beer, or wine store, may be liable for the results of the drunk driving accident, if those parties acted negligently.

South Carolina Dram Shop law is pursuant to common law, not statute.

In South Carolina, there is no “Dram Shop” Act; however, our courts recognize an injured party’s right to pursue an establishment for damages caused by the acts of an intoxicated adult patron.  Specifically, to pursue such an action, the injured party must apply the criminal statutes governing alcohol control (S.C. Code Ann. § 61-4-580) and demonstrate the permit holder knowingly sold beer or wine to an intoxicated person.

Ordinarily, acting negligently in serving alcohol will mean serving alcohol to someone that a reasonable person would know shouldn’t be served alcohol, due to the unreasonable danger it may create. When gauging whether a person should have sold someone alcohol, what matters is not the individual server’s impression of the person.  It is whether a reasonable, ordinary person would think the person was intoxicated knowing the facts that the server should have known.  So if the person is slurring their speech or stumbling, and the server doesn’t notice, he or she should have, and the server’s business will likely be liable in negligence.

Dram shop cases require an experienced attorney to do a thorough investigation.

“Dram shop” laws help injured individuals and their families recover compensation for injuries caused by the restaurant or bar’s negligence in serving alcohol to the at-fault driver. Dram shop case are difficult to establish. Establishments routinely claim that the person was not “obviously intoxicated” or that the establishment had no reason to know the person had consumed too much alcohol. This requires that injured party to conduct a thorough investigation to discover all the evidence that would support their claim the establishment was negligent. Evidence a lawyer can collect include: records showing a large number of alcoholic drinks served to the person, eyewitness testimony from others a the establishment including employees and patrons,and,  surveillance footage from the establishment or other locations.

If you have questions about a car accident involving a drunk driver,please contact Venus Poe today at 864-963-0310 click here to fill out an online case evaluation form. We have offices in Greenville, South Carolina and Fountain Inn, South Carolina to better serve you. There is no obligation or charge for our initial consultation to see if we can help you with your case.

The information you obtain in this article is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should not read this article to propose specific action or address specific circumstances, but only to give you a sense of general principles of law. Application of these general principles to particular circumstances must be done by a lawyer who has spoken with you in confidence, learned all relevant information, and explored various options. Before acting on these general principles, you should hire a lawyer licensed to practice law in the jurisdiction in which you may have a case.

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