Injuries to innocent third parties in drunk driving accidents are usually very severe. Some tragically result in death. Most people know that if they are injured in an accident caused by a drunk driver, the drunk driver may be held liable for costs of their injuries. The drunk driver may face a lawsuit from the victim as well as criminal penalties (fines, suspended driver’s license, possible jail time, etc.). However, what many people do not realize is that there may be other parties who are responsible for their injuries, such as bars, restaurants, pubs, taverns and their employees who continue to serve alcohol to a visibly intoxicated customer.

Recently, Jaime Kurzman was struck by a car as she was walking on North LaSalle Street in Chicago and began crossing West Ontario Street. The 2013 BMW was driven by Michael Lapato, who was allegedly driving while intoxicated after leaving a sports bar on Chicago’s Near North Side. The sports bar, American Junkie, is named in the suit filed by Kurzman’s attorney because it is alleged that employees of the bar continued to serve Lapato after he exhibited signs of intoxication according to The Cook County Record. While the victim in this case, Jaime Kurzman, may seek damages from Lapato, she may also recover damages from the establishment that over-served alcohol to Mr. Lapato as well.

There are many factors which determine whether a bar, restaurant or business may be held liable for the innocent victim’s injuries in a drunk driving accident. Below are some important elements to determine if the bar or restaurant may be held liable for their negligence:

  • If the drunk driver (patron) exhibited signs of visible intoxication such as stumbling or slurred speech at the time he or she was served alcohol at a bar, restaurant and they knowingly kept on serving him or her.
  • If the drunk driver (patron) has an excessive BAC or other scientific evidence of intoxication, as recently discussed in Missouri case law.
  • If the bar or restaurant served an individual who was younger than the legal drinking limit of 21 years of age and if they knew or should have known that they were a minor.

While bars, pubs, taverns, or other establishments that serve alcohol may be responsible in some drunk driving injury cases to third parties, proving the establishment’s liability isn’t easy. In fact, these over-service of alcohol cases are subject to the requirements of Missouri’s Dram Shop statute (R.S.Mo §537.053 (2)) which states in part that:

“a cause of action may be brought by or on behalf of any person who has suffered personal injury or death against any person licensed to sell intoxicating liquor by the drink for consumption on the premises when it is proven by clear and convincing evidence that the seller knew or should have known that intoxicating liquor was served to a person under the age of twenty-one years or knowingly served intoxicating liquor to a visibly intoxicated person.”

The “clear and convincing evidence” is essentially an increased evidentiary requirement, the reason these types of difficult cases require the experience and skill of a seasoned Kansas City personal injury attorney. Once that threshold is met, victims may seek compensation for medical and rehabilitative care, future care and treatment, loss of income and earning capacity, pain and suffering, scarring, disfigurement and other losses as defined by law.

It is vital to work with a lawyer who will thoroughly investigate your case and review all of the evidence to ensure responsible parties are held accountable. Time is often of the essence in conducting the investigation as bar tenders and waitresses may be difficult to locate for statements. The most important step a victim can take is to contact a trusted Kansas City dram shop attorney such as those at Griggs Injury Law, LLC.