You May Be Able to Sue Both the Drunk Driver and a Dram Shop
Every traffic accident case we handle begins with an independent investigation of the crash, which always involves finding out if the at-fault driver consumed any alcohol before the accident. There are several obvious reasons for this, but one of the most important reasons is that a bar or restaurant can be sued in some cases for the injuries (or death) caused by a drunk driver. These are called “dram shop” cases.
Having a dram shop claim against a bar, restaurant or other establishment that served alcohol to the driver means you and your family can potentially recover money from both the at-fault driver’s auto insurance company and from the dram shop. As an example, let’s say Drunk Driver rear ends your car, jolting you hard enough to cause you to suffer severe traumatic brain injury and giving your child in the back seat serious internal injuries from the seatbelt. The no-fault insurance does not cover the medical expenses or the money you have lost because you could not work at the same job. You turn to Drunk Driver’s insurance company to get compensation, but that amount does not cover your expenses either. If there is a dram shop claim against the bar Drunk Driver was at prior to the accident, you can file a lawsuit against the bar, which should have significant insurance coverage.
Drunk Driver Lawsuits are Deterrents to Bad Behavior
In my experience, every DUI/DWI accident victim and every family that has lost a loved one in an alcohol-related accident wants to do something to prevent the drunk driver from hurting anyone else. I firmly believe that filing a lawsuit against the drunk driver and fighting to hold accountable those who caused the harm (by recovering monetary compensation) is a strong deterrent. In addition, the lawsuit can give the victim and the family media exposure, which provides them with the opportunity to speak out against drunk driving.
Send the Message that Drunk Driving is Never Okay
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that in the U.S. people drink too much and get behind the wheel over 100 million times a year, even though states have enacted tougher laws and there have been many campaigns to dissuade people from drinking and driving. Alcohol-impaired drivers are involved in about 1 in 3 crash deaths, resulting in over 10,000 wrongful deaths per year—one every 51 minutes.
Certain groups are more likely to drink and drive than others.
- Men were responsible for 4 in 5 episodes (81%) of drinking and driving in 2010.
- Young men ages 21-34 made up only 11% of the U.S. adult population in 2010, yet were responsible for 32% of all instances of drinking and driving.
- 85% of drinking and driving episodes were reported by people who also reported binge drinking. Binge drinking means 5 or more drinks for men or 4 or more drinks for women during a short period of time.
By filing a lawsuit against a drunk driver, you are another voice saying, “Drunk driving is never okay. Choose not to drink and drive.”
Attorney Eric Hageman is the author of this article. He represents accident victims throughout the United States. He is available for a free consultation to drunk driver accident victims and their families. Our offices are in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Of Counsel David Szerlag has offices in Boston, Massachusetts and Providence, Rhode Island.