Every 51 minutes, someone dies in an alcohol-related car crash. Every day, 30 people do. Every year, more than 10,000 people are killed in crashes caused, at least in part, by an intoxicated driver, according to the US Centers for Disease Control & Prevention.
States have experimented with many legislative strategies to prevent people who are drunk from hitting the road. They’ve increased penalties for DUI, raised sales taxes on beer and liquor and tried lowering the legal limit. But the most effective technique, according to public policy researchers, is allowing people who get hurt by drunk drivers to sue the bars and restaurants serving alcohol in the first place.
Continue reading more about what is a dram shop law.
In 35 states and the District of Columbia, bars and restaurants that are licensed to sell alcohol can be held accountable for doing so illegally:
If patrons who were illegally served go on to injure innocent people, in a fight or car accident, the establishment can be held accountable for a victim’s damages in a “dram shop lawsuit.” These laws are often called “dram shop laws,” after the teaspoons of liquor, or “drams,” commonly served in early-American taverns.
Here are those 35 states. We’ll point out state-specific quirks as we go:
Several states “split the difference,” limiting dram shop claims to those involving intoxicated minors:
Licensed establishments in those states can be held accountable for serving minors alcohol, but not for serving “visibly intoxicated” adults. California is a special, even more limited case. Accident victims in California can only sue licensed establishments for serving minors who were “visibly intoxicated.”
Georgia, Michigan and Texas also have their own unique laws on the issue:
Currently, 7 states don’t recognize dram shop liability, even when minors were served alcohol:
Some of those states don’t have specific laws addressing the issue, but case law and prior court decisions have set the precedent. Other states, like Louisiana, have actually passed laws explicitly invalidating dram shop claims.
Yes. Many states have observed significant decreases in car crashes after instituting dram shop laws. In fact, dram shop laws have been shown more effective than taxing alcohol at a higher rate and increasing DUI penalties.
In some states, the positive effects have been incredible:
Out of all policies intended to reduce alcohol-related accidents, “laws allowing individuals to sue bars for the drunken behavior of their patrons were the policies most strongly associated with lower minor and adult fatality rates.” That quote comes from a study, published by the journal Accident Analysis & Prevention in 2000, which
It’s not hard to see why dram shop laws have this effect. When licensed establishments serve alcohol illegally, they can get hit in the wallet. Big time.