Dram Shop Liability in Georgia

Jan 24, 2017

Dram Shop Liability in Georgia

Driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol causes thousands of injuries and deaths every year. In fact, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), as many as 28 people die every day in alcohol-related crashes. Most people are aware that at-fault drivers who make the reckless decision to drive while intoxicated can be held accountable for the results of their actions. What is less well-known, however, is that it is also possible to hold the sellers and servers of alcohol who contributed to the at-fault party’s intoxication liable for damages. While nothing may be able to compensate an injured party for his or her losses, holding the responsible individuals accountable can go a long way towards helping victims and their families begin the long process of recovery, so if you live in Atlanta and were recently injured in a car crash caused by a drunk driver, it is important to contact an experienced car accident attorney who can help you collect compensation from the responsible parties.

The Effects of Driving While Under the Influence 

When alcohol is consumed it is absorbed directly through the walls of the stomach and small intestine. From there, it passes into the bloodstream where it remains until it is metabolized by the liver. Once absorbed, alcohol has a significant impact on the brain’s ability to function in addition to impairing muscle coordination. For these reasons, drinking alcohol prior to driving is especially dangerous, where all of these skills are required.

Alcohol levels are measured by the amount of alcohol in a certain volume of blood, a measurement that is known as Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC). At a BAC of 0.08 grams of alcohol per deciliter of blood, a person becomes impaired enough that driving is no longer safe. Although this is the legal limit, driving after drinking even a small amount of alcohol can be dangerous.

For instance, a BAC of 0.02 results in a decline in the ability to rapidly track a moving target and makes it more difficult to multi-task. At 0.05, a person begins to exhibit exaggerated behavior, has more difficulty focusing the eyes, and has significantly reduced coordination and response time. A BAC of 0.08 affects balance, speech, vision, reaction time, and judgment. As a result, drivers with this much alcohol in their system are less able to control their speed or respond to stimuli. At 0.10, a person will usually have slurred speech, poor coordination, and demonstrate an inability to maintain a lane position or brake when necessary.

Third Party Liability

In Georgia, certain individuals or entities who contribute to a person’s intoxication can be held accountable if that person later causes an injury. This is known as dram shop liability and applies to establishments that are licensed to sell alcohol to customers, including:

  • Restaurants;
  • Bars;
  • Liquor stores;
  • Hotels; and
  • Clubs.

In certain situations, these entities can be held partially responsible for injuries caused by a drunk driver if they take one of the following actions:

  • Serve alcohol to a minor who is under the age of 21 years old, knowing that the minor will soon be driving; or
  • Serve alcohol to a person who is noticeably intoxicated, knowing that he or she is likely to drive a car in the near future.

Both of these factors require an injured party to demonstrate that the server was aware that an intoxicated person intended to drive a car after drinking. The plaintiff will also need to establish that the patron was noticeably intoxicated. Signs of intoxication could include:

  • Slurred speech;
  • Bloodshot eyes;
  • An unsteady gait;
  • A lack of motor skills; and
  • A pervasive alcohol smell.

However, not all people show the same signs of being under the influence, so although a person may be extremely intoxicated, he or she may show no noticeable signs. In these situations, it would be very difficult to establish a server’s liability for providing a customer with alcohol. Additionally, to determine whether a person selling alcoholic beverages to a minor did so knowingly, the court will look at whether the server or bartender relied on identification showing that the minor was 21 years old. If a server was presented with identification prior to serving the alcoholic beverage, a rebuttable presumption that they were not sold knowingly and unlawfully will be established.

If a plaintiff is able to overcome these hurdles and demonstrate that a server was aware that a customer was intoxicated and that he or she was about to operate a motor vehicle, the injured party may be able to collect damages from the establishment, including the costs of:

  • Medical expenses;
  • Property damage;
  • Lost wages;
  • Loss of future income;
  • Pain and suffering; and
  • Burial or funeral costs.

To collect these damages, a plaintiff must file a claim with the appropriate court within two years of the date of the accident. A failure to bring the claim within this time frame could lead to the case being barred, meaning that the injured party will lose the chance of obtaining compensation for his or her losses.

Contact Ted A. Greve & Associates, P.A. Today to Speak With an Experienced Atlanta Car Accident Lawyer 

At Ted A. Greve & Associates, P.A., our legal team has a significant amount of experience representing victims of car crashes caused by the negligence or recklessness of others. Furthermore, we understand that being involved in a car crash can be overwhelming, requiring victims to foot the bill for thousands of dollars worth of medical expenses, pay for the cost of vehicle repair or replacement, deal with the pain of injuries, and in some tragic cases, mourn the loss of a loved one. We are committed to helping our clients bear some of this burden by representing their interests, whether in settlement negotiations or in the courtroom, so if you were recently involved in an alcohol-related car crash, please contact us at your earliest convenience by sending us a brief message or initiating a live chat with a member of our skilled and experienced Atlanta car accident lawyers. We will be happy to help you schedule a free one-on-one consultation with an experienced and compassionate car accident attorney.