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How does dram shop liability play out in DUI accidents?


Illinois residents are very familiar with the impacts of drunk driving. While thousands of people die as a result of drunk driving, the efforts of the government and the state in reducing DUI-related crashes are also expanding. In fact, following a drunk driving crash, drunk drivers are not necessarily the only ones liable for the damages. There are cases in which bars and the people who serve drunk drivers alcohol are subject to civil liability as well. This is due to the dram shop law.

Dram shop law is a legal restriction that prohibits bars and alcohol retailers from serving alcohol to a visibly intoxicated individual. This means that bar owners, staff and even hosts of a party have to know when it is still okay to serve more alcohol to an individual and when it is the right time to stop it. Otherwise, the party hosts, bar owner and staff can be named as a defendant in a civil action filed as a result of a drunk driving accident. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, as of June 2013 there are 30 states that have some kind of provisions related to dram shop liability. One of those states is Illinois.

According to Illinois Dram Shop Act, commercial establishments can be held accountable for injuries or damages caused by an intoxicated individual, provided that the damages were caused by the patron, the patron's intoxication is the major cause of the injury and that the establishment sold or served alcohol to the patron.

The state's dram shop law, also called "Liquor Control Act," is unique and stricter than dram shop laws in other states. This is because the law does not require business to notice that the person they are serving with alcohol is visibly intoxicated. As long as the establishment serves alcohol to the patron that eventually causes damages as a result of drunk driving, the business can be held liable.

Source: NCSL.org, "Dram Shop Civil Liability and Criminal Penalty State Statutes", June 14, 2013

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