Personal Injury Lawyer in Fort Wayne
The term ‘dram shop’ is not commonly used these days. It originates from back in the day when bartenders served alcohol in small amounts called drams (teaspoonfuls). Establishments that sold alcohol became known as dram shops.
Dram shop liability is the responsibility of a shop owner for the harm caused by a visibly intoxicated customer who was able to purchase alcohol at their establishment and then, goes on to injure someone as a result of that intoxication. While some states distinguish between commercial and social alcohol furnisher liability, Indiana does not. The state applies the dram shop law to vendors and private hosts alike.
It may be difficult for victims and their families to determine who is liable and why. Fortunately, assistance can be obtained by contacting a Fort Wayne personal injury lawyer.
Let’s discuss how the dram shop laws in Indiana work.
Dram Shop Liability in Indiana
Indiana code 7.1-5-10-15.5 discusses who may be liable and states when they may need to compensate victims. The law was enacted in 1968 but has since undergone revisions to address modern times more accurately.
According to the law, a third party may be liable for damages if:
- They furnished alcohol to a visibly intoxicated person.
A seller or host is responsible for damages if they knowingly keep serving alcohol to an intoxicated person. They don’t need particular expertise to determine whether the person is drunk. Common visible signs such as blubbering speech, staggering, and bloodshot eyes are sufficient to prove visible intoxication.
- They served alcohol when there was a foreseeable danger.
A drunk person can easily cause death or injury in a car crash or by shoving others over. They may also cause property damage. Indiana’s dram shop law states that if intoxication was to blame for the injuries, the furnisher (bartender or host) could be liable.
Note: The voluntary nature of intoxication is not an excuse for social hosts and vendors to keep serving alcohol. They should know when to stop and remain firm if they don’t want to share the blame in a personal injury claim.
Damages Under Dram Shop Laws
Under Indiana’s dram shop law, these guilty third parties are liable for damages, including:
- Pain and suffering: Emotional and physical distress.
- Bills: Medical, surgical, rehabilitation, and hospital bills.
- Lost wages: If the injured person misses work and loses income. In the case of disability, the victim may recover lost wages, including the sum of the money they would have earned if they could keep working.
- Property damage: For example, car repairs or broken windows.
- Household services: If the injured have to pay for services, such as childcare, cooking, and cleaning, which they would usually have done, they can seek compensation.
But what if the intoxicated person also gets injured in the incident? Can they claim damages from these third parties, under the dram shop law? No. Neither the intoxicated person nor their relatives may claim damages under Indiana’s dram shop law unless the defendant is a minor.
Finding an experienced personal injury lawyer in Fort Wayne is the first step for victims and their families to protect themselves.
Who may be liable?
Dram shop liability involves third parties implicated in the damages. A lawyer can help victims single out who to pursue. These liable third parties typically fall into one of the following categories:
- Bar owners
- Liquor stores
- Convenience stores
- Servers and sellers at the above premises
- Social hosts at private venues
While most people may readily agree that commercial vendors should be held liable, some may argue that going after a social host is cruel. But the law requires both to act responsibly. Here’s a summary of an actual case from 1985—Ashlock v. Norris. The arguments in the case summary show how an acquaintance can be found guilty under the dram shop law.
When to Contact a Personal Injury Lawyer in Fort Wayne
Victims or their representatives must contact a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible after the incident occurs. Taking this step quickly can help your attorney with gathering valuable evidence and also allows them enough time to speak with witnesses so they can build a solid case.
Dram law claims can be confusing because third parties are involved, and victims may not know who to hold accountable. However, with a single call to a personal injury lawyer, Fort Wayne victims or their families can get the clarification they need.
Remember that insurance companies may attempt to cut a quick and unfair deal with victims who are not fully aware of their own rights. You will need to speak with a personal injury lawyer who will review your case and file for fair compensation.