Bar owners and corporate restaurant proprietors understand that being given the ability to serve beer, wine and spirits is a state-awarded privilege. West Virginia, like many states, has rigid requirements for awarding liquor licenses because of the inherent issues that arise from overserving alcohol to patrons. So, while places that serve alcohol are able to make a great deal of profit from sales, they are also tasked with the responsibility of stopping service to anyone who appears intoxicated. When bartenders overserve patrons, “dram shop” laws may take effect.
The Manchin Injury Law Group in Fairmont, West Virginia is a team of personal injury attorneys that seeks compensation in accident cases involving impaired drivers. Call us at (304) 367-1862 for a free consultation with a dram shop liability lawyer.
The term “dram shop” comes from England. A dram, literally, is equivalent to one-eighth of an ounce, which is a very small amount. So, the term “dram” eventually came to mean “just a little bit.” Essentially, a dram shop is another term for a bar. And under English common law, anyone who owned a dram shop was tasked with the legal duty to prevent their customers and the general public from being injured by overdrinking. Similarly, we refer to the term “dram shop laws” and “dram shop liability” when we describe bartenders’ and bar owners’ liability when it comes to serving and overserving bar and restaurant patrons.
When bartenders and bar owners are not responsible for how much a patron imbibes and then someone is hurt or killed when the patron gets into his or her car and drives, there is a level of liability that comes back onto the bar owner. During an investigation, police and insurance adjusters will often attempt to interview witnesses and other bar patrons to find out whether or not the person in question was visibly intoxicated. If witnesses say the person was visibly intoxicated, or closed-circuit cameras can confirm as much, the bar owner’s insurance company may have to provide compensation to the victim and his or her family.
It is important to understand that video evidence can be overwritten or destroyed and witness recollection gets exponentially worse as the days go by. Also, large restaurant chains have teams of attorneys whose sole purpose is to protect these restaurants from dram shop liability. This is why it is extremely important to hire a firm that helps victims of drunk driving accidents where dram shop liability may come into play. At the Manchin Injury Law Group, our car accident lawyers have been helping victims of drunk driving car accidents for more than 30 years. This includes cases where legal liability is created for bars and restaurants that overserve visibly intoxicated patrons.
There are precautions that some places of business will take to ensure the safety of its customers, such as employ extra security, take a drunk patron’s keys, install better lighting to avoid dark areas where crimes may occur, and call cabs for intoxicated guests. If this responsibility is ignored, private individuals such as bartenders, bar owners and homeowners may also have liability, especially if the person in question is under the age of 21. In some instances, a person who hosts a party, serves alcohol, knowingly allows people to get drunk, then lets them get behind the wheel of motor vehicle, that host may be liable for any injuries that would occur as a result of a drunk driving accident.
If you have questions about dram shop laws and dram shop liability in West Virginia, or if you or a loved one has been injured by a drunk driver, call the Fairmont Manchin Injury Law Group today for a free consultation at (304) 367-1862. Alternatively, you can email us now.