While many other states have dram shop laws, including Missouri, Kansas does not have any dram shop laws. According to the Kansas Supreme Court, the Dram Shop Act and the stringent laws regulating alcohol in the state are determined by the Kansas legislature. For victims of drunk driving accidents, the lack of dram shop liability laws does not mean that your compensation will be limited. Instead, you will have other legal options to hold a drunk driver liable for your accident.

Why Doesn’t Kansas Have Dram Shop Liability Laws?

Dram shop liability laws protect victims of drunk driving accidents by allowing victims to pursue compensation from licensed alcohol establishments that serve alcohol to visibly intoxicated persons. If states have a dram shop law, such a law can be used against bar owners and tavern owners to seek damages that are not covered by the drunken driver.

In general, Kansas does not have dram shop laws because of the strict laws on alcohol sales and because of changes to the state’s liquor code by the Kansas Supreme Court. The Dram Shop Act in Kansas was repealed in 1949, and since then, there has not been another dram shop bill approved by the state legislature.

What Is the Opinion of Kansas Businesses?

The Kansas Restaurant and Hospitality Association holds that personal responsibility is most important for safe drinking and driving. This opinion of the hospitality industry is backed up by state laws that prohibit dram shop laws for Kansas bars, liquor stores, tavern owners, and other people who can be held liable for alcohol issues related to inebriated patrons.

Does Kansas Have Social Host Liability Laws?

Just like a liquor store owner cannot be held liable for the actions of a drunk patron, the host of a social gathering serving alcoholic beverages also cannot be held responsible for a drunk driving accident. Social host liability protects hosts who are serving alcohol in the event that an intoxicated individual leaves a private party and drives a vehicle inebriated. This prohibition on social host liability applies even if the visibly intoxicated person was a minor.

What Are Your Lawsuit Options Without Dram Shop Liability Laws?

Although Kansas does not support dram shop laws, you have other options to recover compensation when dram shop liability is not an option for your legal case. The vast majority of the time, you would file a civil or criminal lawsuit against the drunk driver who caused your accident.

Because Kansas lacks dram shop laws, suing drunk drivers directly is usually the best option you have to recover compensation for your alcohol-related injuries and damages. To win your case, you will need to work with a lawyer to gather sufficient evidence to prove the actions of the drunk driver caused your injuries.

Criminal vs Civil Liability

In Kansas, drunk driving is illegal and intoxicated individuals are charged with a DUI if their blood alcohol content is over 0.08%. For first- and second-time offenses, the DUI will be classified as a misdemeanor; for third and fourth-time offenses, a DUI is considered a felony. Criminal liability means the drunk driver can be held responsible for aggravated battery and other criminal charges.

Civil liability, on the other hand, is meant for imposing liability on a drunk driver so that the damages of the injured party can be recovered. In other states, civil liability may allow a lawyer to use liquor laws or dram shop laws to recover compensation, but in Kansas, civil liability can be used to seek compensation for personal injuries, particularly if a driver cannot be held to criminal liability.

Can Civil and Criminal Charges Be Filed At Once?

Sometimes, tackling alcohol issues for personal injury lawsuits can be easier if criminal and civil charges are filed at the same time. This is generally acceptable because each of these charges is handled differently and will be tried at different times. However, by filing two lawsuits at the same time, this legal recourse can make it easier for victims to seek full compensation and justice, especially for serious or life-threatening injuries after an accident.

Punitive Damages

In certain cases, drunk drivers can be charged with punitive damages as additional punishment for reckless driving. Punitive damages can increase the compensation the drunk driver is responsible for paying. Most often, these additional damages can be used as part of your lawsuit negotiations to help your settlement reach a conclusion more quickly.

Is a Drunk Driver Always Responsible for Your Accident?

If a drunk driver caused your accident and your injuries, you will be able to hold this driver responsible for their personal responsibility and your damages. However, if your accident was not caused because the person was intoxicated, you will not be able to hold an intoxicated person responsible for your personal injury (for example, if the accident was caused by a mechanical failure of the other driver’s car that had nothing to do with their state of intoxication).

How Is Fault Determined?

In Kansas, the fault for drunk driving accidents is determined by a jury. If your case goes to trial, your law firm will need to prove that you are not solely responsible for your injuries. When there is a drunk driver involved in your accident, their level of intoxication can be used to support how responsible the drunk driver is for the accident.

What Compensation Can You Seek?

Without dram shop liability to use as part of your legal strategy, all the compensation you receive will have to be paid by the drunk driver or the drunk driver’s insurance company. Specifically, compensation for your injuries and damages may be paid by the drunk driver’s liability insurance policy, which can potentially limit the amount of your settlement.

Usually, the compensation you can recover can include economic damages such as medical bills, current lost wages, limitations on future earning capacity, and property damage to your vehicle. The specific compensation for your case will be determined by your exact damages and how well your lawyer can show causation for your injuries.

How Much Is Your Drunk Driving Accident Claim Worth?

It can be tough to estimate what your drunk driving accident claim is worth. While certain damages such as lost wages and vehicle repairs can be easily calculated, the cost of other damages can be more difficult to estimate. Some of the most important factors a judge and jury will consider in your case include:

Injury Severity

Major injuries that have a longer-lasting impact on your life typically result in higher compensation. An injury such as compound fractures or broken ribs can take several weeks to fully heal and may involve physical therapy as part of your recovery. If your treatment required a medically induced coma, then your hospital expenses may be particularly high.

Ability to Work

Aside from medical bills, very severe injuries can impact your ability to work. If you are unable to work because of your recovery or because you have a temporary disability, your lost wages should be part of your compensation. If you have sustained a permanent disability that will reduce your earning capacity in the future, this will also be calculated in your settlement.

Pain and Suffering

Pain and suffering can include physical pain, loss of consortium, and trauma, all of which can negatively impact your life. Along with pain and suffering, your non-economic damages may include reduced quality of life because of major injuries.

When Should You Hire an Attorney?

Because Kansas does not have dram shop laws, you will need to hire an experienced attorney, so you can negotiate for the maximum compensation available for your case. It is best to hire an attorney soon after your accident, so you can start building your case against the intoxicated driver who caused your injuries.

Evidence such as the driver’s blood alcohol level, video footage, and police reports can all be used to prove who is responsible for your accident. With sufficient evidence, you will be able to file a successful claim against the drunk driver’s insurance company or file a civil lawsuit against the drunk driver.

Statute of Limitations

Another important reason to hire an attorney as soon as possible after your accident is because of the state’s laws regarding the statute of limitations. According to Kansas state laws, you will only have two years from the date of your accident and injury to file a lawsuit against the driver responsible for your injuries. Even without dram shop liability laws, you can receive economic and non-economic financial compensation.

Until the State Supreme Court makes a ruling that changes the legal precedent for dram shop laws in Kansas, you cannot use dram shop liability laws as part of your legal strategy to seek compensation after an accident. However, intoxicated individuals can still be held responsible for injuries and damaged property when a lawsuit is filed. 

For a free consultation to learn about your options to recover compensation after a drunk driving accident, contact Holman Schiavone, LLC at 816-399-5149.