Since the end of Prohibition in the 1930s, many states have adopted “Dram Shop” laws to hold business owners and social hosts accountable for alcohol they serve to intoxicated patrons or guests. This means that if a establishment (like a bar or restaurant) or a social host serves alcohol to someone who’s clearly intoxicated and causes damage as a result, the establishment or social host could be liable for said damages.
For victims who’ve been injured as a result of an intoxicated person’s injuries, dram shop law may provide compensation as a third party. That is to say, intoxicated people who’ve caused injuries don’t always have the income or assets to cover all of the damages they’ve caused, after all, damages caused in drunk driving collisions can amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars or more. If an individual or an establishment negligently served alcohol to the intoxicated individual, they may also have to pay for a portion of the damages to the victims.
How Massachusetts Handles Dram Shop Law
In some other states, state law allows injured victims to bring lawsuits directly against establishments that served alcohol to the individual who caused damages. Even though there is no statute that specifically states victims can sue alcohol purveyors, they may still be liable for damages according to Chapter 138, Section 69 of Massachusetts General Laws which states, “No alcoholic beverage shall be sold or delivered on any premises licensed under this chapter to an intoxicated person.”
Dram shop laws, like many other laws, have certain requirements (or elements) that have to be established in order to be used in a lawsuit. These requirements are:
- The plaintiff must prove that the establishment or social host served alcohol to someone who was already intoxicated. This is also the reason why many bars and restaurants will “cut off” someone who they believe is intoxicated. There are several different forms of evidence that can help to prove that an establishment served alcohol to someone who’s already intoxicated such as; blood work done immediately after an incident, witness testimony (in some cases even the person who caused the damages will claim an establishment served him too much), a receipt or other purchase record, and even video recordings that show how many drinks were served to the intoxicated person could be used as evidence.
- The plaintiff must demonstrate that the establishment’s negligent serving of alcohol to an already drunk patron served as the proximate cause of the damages sustained. In other words, the plaintiff must prove that if the establishment or social host didn’t serve as many drinks to the intoxicated person, the damages sustained to the victim wouldn’t have occured or been as severe.
If You’ve Been Injured
Being injured by an intoxicated person can be disorienting and frustrating. Cases involving an intoxicated person can be complicated, and require an experienced personal injury lawyer to be successful. Here are a few steps you should take if you’ve been injured by an intoxicated person:
Build a portfolio of evidence. It’s best to start compiling evidence as soon as you can after an injury because evidence can start to disappear if you wait too long. Evidence can be in any of the following forms:
- medical records
- time taken off work
- witness contact information
- photos taken at the scene of the incident
- police reports
You should also consider making a journal of your experiences relating to to your injury, and anything else you can think of. It’s better to compile anything you can think of, and let your lawyer sift out what can be used as evidence later. However, the evidence you find should prove:
- You sustained injuries as a result of the intoxicated person’s actions
- Your injuries would not have occurred if the person wasn’t drunk, or if the establishment/social host had not served them as much as they did and
- Your injuries have a monetary value that is measurable in dollars.
Your next big step should be to contact an experienced personal injury lawyer. When seeking compensation of your injuries, your lawyer will be your biggest asset. This is because a good lawyer will understand that your largest priority is to recover from your injuries, and so most of the legal “heavy lifting” will be taken care of by your lawyer.
It’s also important to note that dram shop laws are only one means of seeking compensation after an injury that aren’t applicable in every case. For that reason, your lawyer can decide what the best course of action would be for you in this case.