Florida Dram Shop Law Doesn’t Bar Drunk Driver Injury Claims

For some, it rattles the conscience to think a drunk driver or his survivors could sue someone else for his involvement in a crash.
However, there are some instances where the argument for this is legally sound. Some cases may involve Florida Dram Shop laws. In other instances, it may be rooted in a simple theory of general negligence.

In any case, an injured driver who was impaired at the time of a crash is going to face an uphill battle to prove the cause of the crash and to limit his own personal liability for what happened.

Our experienced Fort Lauderdale DUI injury lawyers know such claims are going to be complex and require the assistance of an experienced legal team.

One of the scenarios in which such an assertion can make good legal sense is if the impaired driver did not cause the crash. It may not be the most common situation, but it is possible. One example might be if an impaired driver is struck by someone who runs a stop sign. Or perhaps the other driver is impaired too.

The bottom line in these cases is a person is not barred from recovery of personal injury damages in Florida simply because he or she was intoxicated. What will likely come into play is the issue of comparative fault. F.S. 768.81 outlines comparative fault. It grants an injured person the ability to recover damages from someone else, even if the injured person shared part of the blame for what happened. The degree of comparative fault will then be factored in to the ultimate amount of compensation, if plaintiff is successful.

So for example, that impaired driver struck by the stop sign runner: If he wins at trial and the jury awards him $200,000, but the jury assigns him 40 percent comparative fault, he’s only going to be able to collect $120,000 in damages.

Other cases brought by drunk drivers may include the Florida dram shop statute, codified in F.S. 768.125. The law says third parties who legally supply alcohol to someone can’t be held responsible for injury that person causes as a result of consuming that alcohol. Exceptions are made, however, when the seller furnishes alcohol to someone who is either underage or known to be habitually addicted to alcohol.

Usually, this law is used by victims of drunk drivers to file action against the bar who supplied the at-fault driver alcohol. But in Florida, it can sometimes be used by the impaired driver to pursue damages. For example, if an underage driver is served an excessive amount of alcohol and is subsequently injured in a crash, he or she may have grounds to sue the bar as well.

Some states expressly forbid this kind of recovery. In Georgia, for example, the state’s dram shop law specifically states an impaired driver can’t collect damages from the person or entity that furnished the drinks. This was recently reaffirmed in Dion v. Y.S.G. Enterprises, Inc., a case before the Georgia Supreme Court. There, the court ruled the widow of a drunk driver who was served alcohol for eight hours straight – even after he was visibly intoxicated, as forbidden by law – could not succeed in a lawsuit against the bar because of the provisions in state dram shop law.

In Florida, however, it continues to be worthwhile for all injured crash victims to explore legal options with an experienced attorney.

Call Fort Lauderdale Injury Attorney Richard Ansara at (954) 761-4011. Serving Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties.

Additional Resources:
Dion v. Y.S.G. Enterprises, Inc., Nov. 17, 2014, Georgia Supreme Court
More Blog Entries:
Safeco Insurance Co. v. Beare – Bad Faith Claim Properly Abated, Not Dismissed, Oct. 2, 2014, Fort Lauderdale Car Accident Lawyer Blog

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