When a drunk driver causes a car accident, the injured person’s first thought is probably to sue the drunk driver.
However, thanks to dram shop law, Florida drivers can sometimes hold the bar liable for their injuries as well.
But what exactly are Florida’s dram shop laws? And more importantly, when can an injured plaintiff take advantage of them?
What Is Florida Dram Shop Law?
In simple terms, dram shop laws allow injured persons to hold bars liable for serving alcohol to a minor or a habitual drunk. The term “dram shop” comes from an 18th century colonial term for measuring alcohol, the “dram.”
Dram shop laws developed as a way to hold these establishments liable for any injuries caused by their service. The dram shop law Florida adopted can be found in section 768.125 of the Florida Statutes.
Specifically, Florida dram shop law establishes liability against “a person who sells or furnishes alcoholic beverages” if that person
- Willfully and unlawfully sells the alcohol to someone under the age of 21; or
- Knowingly serves alcohol to a person “habitually addicted to the use of any or all alcoholic beverages.”
In those cases, the victim can hold the bar liable for injury or damage caused by the intoxicated person.
Keep in mind that Florida dram shop law does not create liability for serving alcohol to an obviously drunk person. Some states do; however with this dram shop law, Florida only creates liability for serving alcohol to minors or habitual alcoholics.
Also note that the Florida dram shop law requires a specific mental state for the person serving the alcohol. Proving that someone “willfully” sold alcohol to a minor or “knew” the patron was a habitual alcoholic is difficult. Hiring a personal injury attorney as soon as possible after an accident with a drunk driver will maximize your chances of obtaining the evidence you need for your dram shop claim.
Dram Shop Law and Social Hosts
Bartenders aren’t the only ones who might serve alcohol to minors or alcoholics. For example, the host of a private party may also provide alcohol to their guests. The question is whether dram shop laws also cover these “social hosts.”
While some states do extend their dram shop laws to cover social hosts, Florida does not. The host of a private gathering cannot be held liable for serving alcohol, even to someone “habitually addicted” to it.
The same general rule applies to minors; however, a social host serving alcohol to someone under 21 may be in violation of other state laws.
Damages in Dram Shop Law Florida Cases
Dram shop laws are just one part of Florida’s negligence laws. As a result, the damages available for dram shop cases resemble other negligence cases, like premises liability or product liability. The major difference is that dram shop law allows you to sue a third party (the bar) in addition to the person who directly caused your injuries.
Common damages in a dram shop case include:
- Current and future medical expenses, including hospitalization or rehabilitation;
- Lost wages;
- Lost earning capacity if the injury has permanent, long-term effects;
- Compensation for damage to your property, such as your vehicle; and
- Compensation for pain and suffering.
An accident attorney in Florida can help you calculate your damages and seek the compensation you deserve.
Statute of Limitations on Dram Shop Cases
Like other personal injury claims, you have a limited time to file a dram shop claim. In Florida, the statute of limitations for dram shop claims is four years.
This means that you must file your claim within four years of the accident happening or else you will be barred from doing so.
If you were injured in an accident with a drunk driver, it is important to consider a dram shop claim. With the dram shop law, Florida motorists can recover damages even if the other person had no money or insurance.
If you’re unsure whether you have a dram shop claim, you should contact a personal injury lawyer. Emmanuel Sheppard & Condon will assess your case and help you decide which course of action is right for you.
Contact a Pensacola Personal Injury Lawyer
Emmanuel Sheppard & Condon is proud to have served the people of Pensacola since 1913. As one of the area’s most established law firms, we provide our clients with personalized attention and dedication. Proving dram shop liability can be tough, but we have the experience and resources to get you the compensation you deserve.