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Can a bar be held responsible for an alcohol-related crash?

At any given time, you may share Georgia's roads with a driver who got behind the wheel after drinking. In fact, you may shudder to think of just how many times you managed to avoid becoming involved in a serious -- yet preventable -- accident with a drunk driver. Then, the unthinkable happened.

You may have spent time in the hospital and time out of the hospital recovering from your injuries. You lost income, gained medical bills and incurred other damages as well. When the dust settled, you found out that the driver who police believed caused the crash had been drunk at the time. You may already know that you can file a personal injury claim against the driver, but did you know that someone else may also bear some legal responsibility?

Dram Shop Laws

In 18th century England, establishments would sell spoonfuls of gin called drams. Such establishments were called "dram shops." This term now applies to laws that allow victims of alcohol-related accidents to receive compensation in civil court from those who serve or sell alcohol, not just bars. For example, if the drunk driver in your accident left an establishment that falls under the definition in Georgia's dram shop laws before your crash, the establishment may be legally liable for monetary damages.

What does it take to prove a dram shop is liable?

Holding an establishment liable under dram shop laws could present a challenge. You need to prove that the person providing alcohol to the driver knew or should have known that the driver was intoxicated. However, that's only part of the test. That person also must have known or should have known that the driver was going to get behind the wheel upon leaving. Obtaining a statement to this effect may prove difficult.

You may need to obtain statements from numerous people regarding the actions of the driver that night. If it turns out that he or she was obviously intoxicated, you could receive compensation from the establishment. It may be an uphill battle, which could explain why not many people pursue this avenue.

However, that doesn't mean that it's impossible. Before making a decision regarding whether to name an establishment as a defendant, a thorough investigation would be beneficial. In many cases, tracing the steps of the drunk driver leading up to the accident could provide valuable evidence that someone knew or should have known that he or she shouldn't have driven the day (or night) of your accident.

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