Roughly 1 out of 4 motorists who are convicted of DUI are repeat offenders. Because insurance premiums tend to increase after a Drunk Driving Accident conviction, many of these drivers are uninsured or underinsured.
If you were struck by an impaired motorist who doesn’t have enough insurance to cover the resulting damages, you may be wondering how to cover your losses. Unfortunately, defendants in these cases usually do not have the personal assets to pay for the damages they cause, though this is certainly a route that your attorney can help you evaluate. Another potential way to collect damages is to identify other liable parties.
While California Civil Code section 1714 essentially absolves social hosts and “dram shops”—bars, restaurants, and liquor stores—of liability for furnishing alcohol to those who proceed to drink and drive, there are a few notable exceptions. The first exception pertains to minors, and the second pertains to individuals who are obviously intoxicated or habitual drunkards.
Exceptions to California’s Statutory Prohibition Against a Social Host or Dram Shop’s Civil Liability
Social hosts, including parents and guardians, can be deemed liable for any injuries or deaths that occur as a result of furnishing alcohol to underage individuals at their place of residence. As long as the adult knew or should have known that the imbiber was under 21, he or she can be held financially responsible for any damages that the impaired minor proceeds to cause while under the influence.
This liability extends to damages that the minor incurs, as well. For the exception to apply, the claimant must prove that the furnished alcohol was the proximate cause of their losses. In other words, they must demonstrate how they would not have gotten hurt but for the host’s actions of supplying alcohol.
Establishments that sell alcohol also assume a certain amount of liability when furnishing drinks. Under California Business & Professions Code section 25602.1, dram shops can be held civilly liable for serving patrons who are known to have a drinking problem or who appear obviously intoxicated.
That means there are two scenarios in which drunk driving accident victims can hold dram shops or social hosts liable for their injuries. In simplest terms, you may name the establishment or host in your claim if the impaired motorist was someone who should not have been served prior to getting behind the wheel.
How Can I Prove Dram Shop Liability?
If you intend to seek damages from a dram shop or social host, the strongest evidence of liability will depend on the circumstances surrounding the accident. Such evidence may include:
- Social Media Posts: Photos, videos, status updates, tags, and check-ins from the drunk driver’s social media profiles—or those of his or her friends—could be valuable when piecing together what happened prior to the wreck. Cell phone records, including text messages and voicemails, may also contribute to the strength of your claim. Since the cell phone service provider is unlikely to release such records without legal pressure, though, your drunk driving accident lawyer may have to file a subpoena in order to obtain them.
- Surveillance Footage: Because many business establishments have surveillance systems nowadays, there’s a good chance that video footage exists of the dram shop serving the impaired motorist just before the accident. If the individual appears to be intoxicated—by stumbling, for example, or slurring his or her words—such footage could help you prove the establishment’s liability.
- Relevant Records: If the drunk driver has a history of substance abuse, there’s a good chance those who furnished him or her with alcohol were aware of it. People who suffer from alcoholism tend to visit the same establishments repeatedly. You may be able to use credit card receipts and medical records to demonstrate a pattern of habitual drunkenness. Cross-referencing the receipts with the employees’ schedules may help your attorney prove that those who were on the clock at the time should have known not to serve alcohol to the person who caused your accident.
How Long Do I Have to Take Legal Action Against a Dram Shop Following a Drunk Driving Accident?
In the state of California, the standard statute of limitations for personal injury lawsuits is two years. That means you will likely have two years from the date on which you were struck by a drunk driver to take action against the social host or dram shop that served him or her.
Because there are a number of exceptions to this filing deadline, though, it’s wise to consult a personal injury attorney as soon as possible. If you wish to sue a government agency, for example—perhaps the drunk driver was served at a government-run dram shop on a military post prior to getting behind the wheel—you may have just six months to file an administrative claim with the appropriate agency.
If your claim is rejected—you should receive notice within 45 days—you will have six months from the date on which the letter was mailed or personally delivered to file a formal lawsuit. If you did not receive any such letter, however, you may have up to two years from the date of the accident to file suit.
Call (562) 206-1939 to Speak with a Drunk Driving Accident Attorney in Long Beach
Your Injuries Are Personal to Me
If you were struck by a drunk driver, turn to the Law Office of Michael D. Waks for representation. A top-rated trial lawyer, Michael D. Waks has won numerous six- and seven-figure settlements and verdicts for his clients. For a free consultation, send us an email or dial (562) 206-1939.
Download Our Car Accident Emergency Response .PDF
Impaired motorists pose a risk to everyone on the road around them. Because a drunk driving accident can happen at any time, it doesn’t hurt to be prepared. By keeping our Car Accident Emergency Response .pdf in your vehicle, you will always have a comprehensive guide on hand to help you document the scene of a collision. Download it HERE for free.
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