Between the information shared in driver’s training courses and public awareness campaigns, drivers are fully aware of how alcohol might impact their ability to operate a vehicle safely. Many of them just choose to ignore that information and get behind the wheel after drinking anyway.
Obviously, someone who breaks the law and does something that every other driver knows to be unsafe has liability for the crash they caused. Pennsylvania’s insurance system will allow you to make a claim against their coverage. You may also have the right to file a personal injury claim against the driver who caused the crash if you have significant injuries that cost more than insurance will cover.
If the drunk driver was at a business consuming alcohol before the crash, could that company have some liability for the wreck?
Yes, dram shop laws may pass liability to a business
Pennsylvania state laws include dram shop rules that extend liability to businesses that serve alcohol to the public. If a business serves someone who is already visibly under the influence of alcohol, they may be responsible if that patron leaves their business and goes on to cause a crash. Those hurt by an underage driver who purchased alcohol at a restaurant or bar could also have a dram shop claim.
What are the benefits of holding a business responsible for a patron?
There are two positive consequences to dram shop claims after major motor vehicle collisions caused by drunk drivers.
The first is that it gives the plaintiff access to business insurance coverage which may provide more protection than of basic motor vehicle liability policy would. Even if there isn’t adequate insurance and the case goes to court, a business will usually have more resources to cover the crash costs than an individual would.
The second benefit of a dram shop claim is the creation of consequences for a business whose practices put the public at risk. When bar and restaurant owners have to pay the price for crashes caused by their lax adherence to state liquor laws, they may do a better job in the future of training their staff and enforcing alcohol service rules at their establishment.
Filing a dram shop claim can be a powerful way to pursue justice after a drunk driving wreck in Pennsylvania.