It’s everyone’s worst nightmare. A night of fun turned deadly in Bellingham, WA a few years ago when a drunk driver left a bar, got into his Ford F-350 heavy duty pick-up truck and hit the road. He proceeded to hit multiple pedestrians, severely injuring one (our client) and killing the other. He kept going, T-boning an SUV with five passengers, hitting several parked cars and finally a guardrail. Our client was taken to the emergency room and suffered severe injuries.
To make matters worse, the drunk driver had been driving without auto insurance. Fortunately, our client had uninsured motorist coverage on his policy and we were able to make an uninsured motorist claim. After we settled his insurance, we made a claim against the bar for over serving the driver–this is called a dram shop lawsuit.
Dram shop lawsuits relate to the over-serving of alcohol to customers at licensed establishments who then go on to cause an accident. The term “dram shop” stems from the early days of saloons and speakeasies which provided alcohol by the dram, a unit of measuring liquid. Bars that serve alcohol can be held legally responsible and financially liable for injuries and fatalities that result from a drunk driving collision. Particularly, if it is discovered that the establishment over-served the driver who caused the crash.
Dram shop lawsuits are not uncommon after a person has been injured or killed by a DUI collision. However, pursuing a dram shop claim can be more complex than a typical auto injury case and therefore, requires a higher level of investigation and collection of evidence. Due to these added complexities it is beneficial for victims of drunk-driving crashes to consult with us. Our attorneys will determine if there is an opportunity for a dram shop claim against an establishment.
In the Bellingham case, in addition to obtaining insurance company underinsured policy limits for our client, we were awarded $185,000 from the bar for over serving the defendant. The drunk driver was sentenced to 16 years in prison.