Holiday festivities and good cheer in America mean the adult beverages flow freely. There are more impaired drivers on the roads. Intoxication inevitably causes accidents. The good news is drunk driving fatalities are now half of what they were in 1980. However,  there are still about 30 each day. About 65% of Americans will be involved in a DUI accident during their lives. The yearly cost of the resulting injuries and property damage is $132 billion. Who’s at fault? The servers of alcohol, as well as the drinkers? This is the question dram shop and social host liability relate to.

DRAM SHOP LIABILITY

A drunk driver who causes an accident is generally the focus of the injured person’s claims. Under some conditions, though, the law also holds the provider of the drinks liable. The State of Florida has a so-called “dram shop” law on the books.  The law states that in general, an establishment is not liable for injuries an impaired patron causes. There are two exceptions. The first is the case of serving alcohol to a minor. The second is knowingly serving a ‘habitually addicted’ patron. In both of these cases, the server can be found liable.

SOCIAL HOST LIABILITY

Two key points are notable. First, the dram shop exceptions apply only to commercial servers of alcohol.  The host of a private party in the home, for example, is not liable for injuries the DUI of a guest causes. This is “social host liability”. Florida doesn’t recognize it.   Second, Florida law does not address the impaired patron’s level of intoxication. There’s no duty of care not to serve an intoxicated person. This isn’t the case with some other states’ dram shop laws. New York law, for example, makes it illegal for businesses to serve alcohol to persons who are “visibly intoxicated”.

DRAM SHOP CLAIMS

For the most part, Florida law protects of servers of alcohol.  Nevertheless, the experienced South Florida personal injury lawyers at Silver&Silver  source the alcohol consumed by a driver who’s injured their client. If it was a commercial establishment, a plaintiff’s lawyer can seek to invoke the dram shop law. For adult drivers, the plaintiff must show that the server knew the patron to be a problem drinker. If the driver was a minor, the establishment must have “willfully and unlawfully” provided the alcohol.  That’s why Silver & Silver lawyers are expert in DUI law as well as personal injury.

The same statute of limitations holds for dram shop liability claims as for other types of personal injury cases. You must file a claim within four years of an injury. The sooner an injured person contacts Silver & Silver, the better.