In some circumstances, one of the contributing causes of your drunk driving accident may be the commercial establishment that sold alcoholic beverages to an intoxicated person. If this is a factor in your case, then you will be able to sue the drunk driver and the bar that sold intoxicating liquor. However, you only have five years to file a lawsuit under the statute of limitations for Missouri’s dram shop law.

What Is the Process for Filing Dram Shop Claims?

If you believe an establishment licensed to sell intoxicating liquor is partially liable for your personal injury, then you will need to hire a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible. Missouri’s dram shop laws require clear and convincing evidence to hold the commercial establishment liable for your injuries and damages.

Essentially, your lawyer will need to find evidence that proves the bar or tavern sold alcoholic beverages to a visibly intoxicated person or someone who was under the age of 21. Your lawyer will also need evidence that proves the licensed alcohol vendor acted with negligence, which led to the actions that directly caused your accident. From there, a lawsuit can be filed if evidence meets the criteria of the Missouri Dram Shop Act.

Strategy One: Selling Alcoholic Beverages to an Already Intoxicated Person

Commercial establishments that serve alcoholic beverages are responsible for cutting off consumers who are visibly intoxicated to such an extent that the individual displays significant physical dysfunction or significantly uncoordinated physical action.

If a barkeeper continues to serve an alcoholic beverage to someone with visible intoxication, this can make the establishment liable for any ensuing injuries or damages caused by the intoxicated individual. Furnishing alcoholic beverages to intoxicated persons who are already significantly intoxicated is irresponsible and may even be considered negligent.

Strategy Two: Selling Intoxicating Liquor to a Minor

Another strategy your lawyer may pursue in your dram shop case is proving that the commercial establishment or person licensed to sell alcoholic beverages knowingly served intoxicating liquor to a minor. According to Missouri dram shop laws, it is illegal to sell alcohol of any kind to someone who is under the age of 21.

To prevent selling alcohol to minors and prohibit dram shop liability, all establishments must verify a person’s age by checking their driver’s license or federal personal identification card. If a bar owner or his or her employee fails to verify the age of the consumer and this causes a minor person’s intoxication, the establishment can be held responsible for any damages.

What Determines a Visibly Intoxicated Person?

According to Missouri dram shop law, a visibly intoxicated is someone who has significant physical dysfunction, such as reduced motor skills or slurring speech. A visibly intoxicated person displaying significantly uncoordinated physical action likely has impaired cognitive abilities and motor functions, which can lead to devastating personal injury cases if the intoxicated individual gets behind the wheel of a vehicle.

While a person’s blood alcohol content (BAC) may be used to show their level of intoxication, this does not usually qualify as convincing evidence according to dram shop law. People react differently when intoxicated, and just because the BAC was high does not mean the person exhibited behaviors that would indicate their level of intoxication. Blood alcohol content is significant evidence for a drunk driving accident when it is the drunk driver who is being sued.

Signs of Visible Intoxication

The most common signs of intoxication include sweating, red eyes, lack of eye focus, red face, stumbling, slurring, and loud behavior. People who are severely intoxicated may be aggressive or may annoy other customers, such as by starting fights or boasting. Any of these visible signs means that the establishment should stop selling alcohol to this individual.

Who Can Be Sued Under Missouri’s Dram Shop Law?

According to Missouri dram shop law, dram shop liability only applies to establishments that are licensed to sell alcohol for consumption on the premises. In other words, bars, sports bars, hotel bars, taverns, pubs, and restaurants are usually liable for dram shop claims.

However, many other establishments are licensed to sell alcohol and liquor, so why are not these businesses held liable? The simple reason is that liquor stores sell packaged alcohol that is meant to be consumed responsibly off the premises. Once a liquor store sells alcohol, the responsibility for the use of that alcohol falls onto the buyer. Essentially, if there is no consumption on the premises, there is no liability.

Can Establishments Refuse Service?

Establishments that are licensed to sell alcohol always have the right to refuse service. Refusing service if a person is visibly intoxicated is one way to avoid negligence for the establishment. Bartenders are legally protected and cannot be fired for refusing to serve alcohol to minors and intoxicated people.

What Is Compensation for a Dram Shop Claim?

Like any other civil personal injury case, if you suffered personal injury because of a person’s voluntary intoxication, then you can sue the licensed alcohol vendor for economic compensation. A lawsuit can help you recover finances for missed work, lost wages, medical bills, physical therapy, and much more. The compensation from dram shop cases may also help you recover non-economic damages for severe personal injuries.

In Missouri, the statute of limitations for dram shop claims is five years from the date the injury was sustained. To prove your case, there must be clear and convincing evidence that the establishment sold alcohol negligently, such as by serving liquor to a minor. 

To learn more about how dram shop laws can be used in your case, contact Holman Schiavone, LLC at 816-399-5149 today.