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Is a Bar Responsible for a Drunk Driving Accident in Florida?

on  Car Accidents

Many individuals would argue that a drunk driver is solely responsible for their own actions. The decision to get behind the wheel while drunk is a reckless and deadly one. Everyone should know better these days; there are easy ways to get home safely after a night out. 

Yet, bartenders, bar owners, restaurants, and staff could also be responsible in Florida. 

When a drunk driving accident does occur in Florida, is the bar responsible for a drunk driving accident? Yes. The bar is responsible for a drunk driving accident in Florida if they knowingly served alcohol to a minor or someone with an alcohol addiction. Dram shop liability laws address this liability.

Dram shop liability laws outline the circumstances under which a bar or tavern can be held accountable for injuries caused by drunk driving accidents. They hinge on specific criteria, such as serving alcohol to a minor or a known addict. This establishes the negligence of the establishment. Understanding these laws is crucial for victims of drunk driving accidents in Florida. With a Florida drunk driving accident lawyer’s help, you can hold negligent establishments accountable and seek the compensation you rightfully deserve. 

What is Dram Shop Liability in Florida?

Florida’s dram shop laws establish circumstances under which an establishment can be held liable. This includes serving alcohol to an addict or someone under the legal drinking age of 21.

For a bar to be held liable, it must be proven that the establishment knowingly served alcohol to someone addicted to alcohol or a minor. Your lawyer must prove that this act directly contributed to the subsequent harm or damages.

If you prove that the bar acted negligently, you can seek compensation from the establishment. This can help cover medical expenses, lost wages, and other damages that might be unavailable if the drunk driver doesn’t have enough insurance.

Understanding Drunk Driving Laws in Florida

In Florida, for most drivers over 21, the state sets the legal BAC limit at 0.08%. This limit is the standard measure used across many states for defining drunk driving. However, the limit differs for commercial drivers, who often operate larger and potentially more dangerous vehicles. Their limit is set at a stricter level of 0.04%. 

For drivers under the age of 21, Florida laws are very strict to help prevent underage drinking and driving. The state adheres to a “zero tolerance” policy, where the legal BAC limit is just 0.02%. 

Unfortunately, even with strict DUI laws, drivers in Florida still drive intoxicated. When they do, they can cause horrific and fatal car crashes. Injured drunk driving accident victims and their families are often left struggling to regain their lives after a serious crash. The drunk driver may not have insurance or carry just the minimum amount. If their injuries are catastrophic and lifelong, injured drunk driving accident victims may not be able to recover enough compensation from the at-fault driver to help them rebuild their lives. 

However, if the bar, restaurant or other alcohol serving establishment that served the drunk driver is to blame, your attorney may be able to seek significantly more compensation to help you get back on your feet. 

Is the Bar Responsible?

Bar liability after a drunk driving accident in Florida is governed by Florida Statute 768.125. This law addresses the liability of persons and establishments serving alcoholic beverages. 

Under Florida Statute 768.125, a person or establishment that sells or gives alcoholic beverages to a person of lawful drinking age is generally not liable for damages caused by the intoxication of such person. However, there are critical exceptions to this rule. 

Liability arises if alcoholic beverages are provided to a person who is:

  • Under the Legal Drinking Age: If the establishment knowingly serves a person under the legal drinking age of 21, which leads to injury or damage, the establishment can be held liable.
  • Habitually Addicted to Alcohol: If the establishment serves a person habitually addicted to alcohol, and this results in injury or damage, they may be held liable.

The concept of “negligence” is pivotal when proving liability after a drunk driving accident. Negligence, in legal terms, refers to the failure to take reasonable care to avoid causing injury or loss to another person. In dram shop liability cases, negligence would be assessed based on whether the establishment failed to act reasonably when serving alcohol. 

This can include situations where the establishment served alcohol to a visibly intoxicated person or a minor, where such service could reasonably be expected to lead to harm.

How to Prove Dram Shop Liability After a FL Drunk Driving Crash

Proving a dram shop violation in Florida is challenging for drunk driving accident victims and their legal teams. 

In many cases, underage individuals may access alcohol by presenting fake identification. This complicates the claimant’s case, as the establishment can argue that they were deceived and had no intent to serve a minor. Establishments are required to verify the age of their patrons, but when a convincing fake ID is used, they may argue that they took reasonable steps to ensure compliance with the law.

Another challenge in proving dram shop liability is establishing that the establishment knowingly served alcohol to a habitually addicted person. Habitual addicts often conceal their addiction, making it difficult to prove that the server was aware or should have been aware of the addiction. Establishments might argue that there was no visible or known evidence to suggest the person was habitually addicted to alcohol.

Unlike some states, Florida’s dram shop laws do not extend liability to cases where an establishment serves a visibly intoxicated person (unless they are a minor or habitually addicted). This narrow scope of liability often protects establishments from indirect liability associated with the actions of adult customers.

Proving that the bar or establishment knew or should have known that the person was “habitually addicted to the use of any or all alcoholic beverages” often requires evidence that:

  • That the person drank at the bar often
  • That the person drank heavily during their frequent visits
  • That the person is a “regular”
  • That at least some of the bar’s employees have know the person
  • That the person has been cut off from drinking on prior occasions

This evidence is usually obtained during a lawsuit through discovery. Your attorney will need to obtain the bar’s billing records, the person’s credit card statements, take statements from the bar’s employees etc. to obtain the evidence needed to prove dram shop liability. Given these complexities, injured drunk driving accident victims should speak with an experienced attorney who can navigate these challenges and gather the evidence needed to demonstrate the establishment’s liability.

Contact Our Experienced Florida Dram Shop Liability Lawyers

At Prosper Shaked Accident Injury Attorneys, PA, our Florida car accident attorneys have the experience needed to hold bars and establishments accountable. If a bar, restaurant, or other alcohol serving establishment violated Florida’s dram shop laws, we can find the evidence to prove it and help you obtain the compensation you deserve.