What If I've been Hit by a Drunk Driver? Can I Sue the Bar that Served the Person?

Drunk Driving Accidents in Florida

Unfortunately, some of the worst automobile crashes are caused by drinking drivers. If you are injured by a drinking driver, there is a possibility that you can recover punitive damages in addition to compensation for your injuries. However, this is not as big a deal as it might seem.

First of all, in order to receive punitive damages, you usually have to go to trial. While the threat of punitive damages may cause an insurance company to pay more money for a claim, in the big picture there is one simple fact: Insurance companies don't pay punitive damages. The individual pays them.

Most individuals don't have sufficient funds to pay punitive damages and usually their most valuable asset is their home. In Florida, as in most states, a person's home is largely immune from collections. As a result, the prospect of collecting punitive damages is remote.

In a lot of states, an individual who is injured by a drunk driver may be able to recover damages from the bar or social host that served the liquor. Not so in Florida except for a couple of exceptions.

In Florida, one of the top industries is tourism. The Florida State Legislature has decided that the tourism industry is more important than protecting its citizens from drunk drivers. The Legislature made a policy decision to protect businesses that depend upon tourism. As a result, Florida's liquor liability law is designed to protect retail establishments. Florida's liquor liability law or “Dram Shop Law” can be found in Florida Statutes, section 768.125. Only under very limited circumstances does this statute create liability for retail establishments that serve alcohol.

Generally, if one willfully sells or furnishes alcohol to a person not of lawful drinking age (21), or knowingly serves a person habitually addicted to the use of alcohol, that person or entity may become liable for injury or damage caused by or resulting from the intoxication of such a minor or person. In other words, if you sell or give alcohol to a person over the age of 21 you are probably not responsible for that person's actions, even if they are intoxicated. This is much different than Dram Shop Laws in other jurisdictions, which often impose liability for serving visibly intoxicated patrons.

It is a much different story if the person who is furnished alcohol is a minor. Even if a bar is furnished a fake I.D and it's determined that the bar should have known it was fake, then the retail establishment is responsible. The law speaks in terms of furnishing alcohol to minors. A social host is responsible for damages resulting from a minor's intoxication.

Parents of minors who decide to have a party where alcohol is served to minors may be responsible for damages caused when a minor who is intoxicated leaves the house and causes injuries or becomes injured. Criminal charges can also be filed against the parents.

It is very important that potential claims for personal injuries involving alcohol be fully investigated. If a minor is involved, than it is quite possible that liability is imposed by statute. However, if an intoxicated adult leaves an establishment that serves alcohol and causes injury or even death, the liability of the business that served the alcohol depends on traditional legal theory, such as negligence.

Given the limits of Florida's laws, the Hudson Law Office goes the extra mile in investigating potential claims against drunk drivers and retail establishments serving alcohol. Remember, these establishments may still be negligent even though they did not violate Florida's Dram Shop Statute.

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