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The High Cost of Liquor Liability Claims.

Posted 7/26/2018

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After an evening of consuming at least ten drinks within a two-hour span at a local Charlotte-based eatery, a customer got into his car, put the pedal to the metal, and slammed into another vehicle carrying a young couple. The couple was seriously injured, both of them requiring extensive surgeries, and their unborn child was killed. The customer had been driving 100 mph and had a blood-alcohol content almost three times the legal limit. The jury returned a $1.7 million verdict against the restaurant, finding it negligent in serving alcohol to a person it knew or should have known was intoxicated.

These and many other similar incidents highlight the risk and responsibilities faced by restaurants for subsequent accidents or injuries caused by their drunken patrons. Forty-three states and the District of Columbia have "dram shop" laws holding alcohol purveyors liable in certain circumstances, with the laws varying significantly across the country in scope and application. In the vast majority of states, laws hold a licensee liable for serving alcohol to a "visibly intoxicated" person. Some jurisdictions cap damages, while others allow injured parties to sue for punitive damages.

Drinking alcohol is a personal choice, and it may seem unfair that bar and restaurants owners can be liable for accidents and injuries that occur because someone chose to drink at their establishment. However, dram shop laws make it clear that owners of a bar or any other business that sells alcohol can be held legally responsible for what their customers do after they’ve been drinking.

The average claim associated with liquor liability is just under $2 million due to severity of the injuries. To help prevent costly liquor liability claims, restaurant management can educate employees on company policies as well as their responsibilities when serving alcohol.

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