Drunk driving accidents are one of the leading causes of needless injury and death in Missouri, Illinois, and across the country. Our St Louis law firm unfortunately sees the carnage caused by this reckless behavior through the injury and wrongful death cases that we handle that often involve drunk drivers.
Sometimes, the drunk drivers got extremely drunk at a bar or restaurant, left that bar and then caused the car crash. So what responsibility should the bar have, assuming you can prove they were over-served? In Missouri and Illinois if the driver was "visibly intoxicated" and the bar continued to serve them, they could be liable for the injuries caused to others on the road. See Missouri Dram Shop Law, proof drunk driver was "Visibly Intoxicated".
Some states still don't have those laws on the books; therefore, the bar can over-serve a driver and throw their hands up to the family of someone killed by a drunk driver and say, "we can't control what they do". Nonsense! They can prevent needless deaths by simply refusing to serve patrons that are visibly intoxicated, or even call a cab for them or encourage them not to drive or turn their keys over if they want another drink.
The fight to impose liability on bar owners is currently going on in Maryland, a state that currently does not have laws on the books holding bar owners responsible. See, Maryland court considers liability of bars in drunken-driving crashes.
I read this article and felt it is necessary to dispose of some myths from the insurance industry that is fighting this law. Int he article the bar owners are claiming: "They say they can't control the actions of someone who leaves their premises. In addition, they say the prospect of being blamed for a customer's drunken-driving crash would raise insurance premiums for them, raise prices for customers and lead some businesses to shut their doors."
True, they cannot control the actions of someone who leaves their premises, but they can control if they are over-served at their bar. No one is trying to hold business owners responsible for a drunk driver that chooses to get ridiculously drunk in the parking lot or somewhere else.
More importantly, the family of the victim or the injured person must prove that the driver was visibly intoxicated and was still served at the bar. This is not easy, but the insurance industry makes it sound like liability is automatic against the bar just of a drunk driving crash happens. Most cases it is difficult to prove the driver was "visibly intoxicated": and then served continuously, it is a very tough burden to prove.
Why is it so hard to prove? Usually no-one knows where the drunk driver came from, then when you find out, and surveillance tape is gone, if it ever existed. Then you have to find witnesses at the bar who can say they remember the driver before they left and that they were visibly intoxicated. Additionally, usually the witnesses were drunk themselves and thus their recall is sketchy at best.
So in the few cases where there are witnesses and clear evidence the bar employees knowingly over-served a drunk person, then let them walk out and drive, and that person causes a car crash; why not hold them responsible? The vast majority of drunk driving injuries, no-one knows where the intoxicated driver got drunk at and it is never an issue because of that.
So to the business owners out there they want to shirk responsibly for knowingly let an inebriated driver leave and drive off and likely kill someone, I say hire a good lawyer because we are coming for you! You would not put a gun in the hand of a drunken patron at 2:00 in morning, so why load that gun for them by over-serving them and get paid for doing it.
It is not difficult, don't serve people that are visibly drunk, if you do, ask a simple question: Do you have your car keys? .... yes .... well, if you want another drink here give them to me and I will give them back to you in the morning or hand them to the cab driver when he picks you up.... Don't want to hand over your keys? I cannot serve you another drink, thank you for coming in. -- Will probably save a life.
St Louis Attorney Ben Sansone is an experienced drunk driving accident lawyer, with millions in verdicts and settlements against drunk drivers and on behalf of injured victims and their families. Hurt by a drunk driver? Relative killed by a drunk driver? Call us today (314) 863-0500 for a free consultation.