During an investigation into a car accident that resulted in your injuries, you learn that the other party was highly intoxicated above the legal blood alcohol limit. You further discover that only half an hour before the accident, the intoxicated driver was at a local bar where he consumed over 10 beers and hard alcohol before stumbling into his car and driving away. Can that bar that served the intoxicated driver be held responsible for your injuries? A dram shop attorney explains that yes, he can.
Illinois’ Dram Shop Statute
Pursuant to 235 ILCS 5/6-21, people who suffer personal injuries or property damages caused by an intoxicated person has a right to bring action against any person licensed under any state to sell alcohol, who, by selling or providing alcohol, caused the intoxication of the person who directly caused your injuries.
Your dram shop attorney will explain that in a dram shop suit, the intoxicated person who harmed you is not the defendant, but the person that irresponsibly provided the alcohol is sued. Selling alcohol is not considered irresponsible in and of itself. Consequently, you must prove the defendant provided the alcohol that caused the person who directly caused your injuries to become intoxicated.
Elements of a Dram Shop Claim
As your dram shop attorney can tell you, Illinois dram shop law is not simple. At a minimum, there are five factors, or elements, that must be proven to win a dram shop lawsuit:
- The person who injured you or otherwise caused you damages must be intoxicated;
- The defendant, or someone working for the defendant, provided alcohol to the person who caused the injury or damage;
- The alcohol the defendant provided to that person caused him or her to become intoxicated;
- You were harmed; and,
- In part, the intoxicated state of the person contributed to the event that harmed you.
Who Can Bring Dram Shop Suit
Injuries are not confined to vehicle accidents. Suppose an inebriated person, while walking, bumps into you at the mall and knocks you to the floor causing an injury to your back. If you can prove the individual’s state of intoxication was part of the cause of the accident, you may have a claim against the bar owner who served the inebriated person the alcohol that caused the intoxication.
Typically, social hosts are not liable under Illinois’ dram shop law. Social host refers to a private individual. A host is not liable for an accident caused by an intoxicated person who was served too much alcohol at the host’s home. There is an exception to the rule. If a person over the age of 21 rents a hotel room or other facility and serves alcohol to a person under the age of 21 or permits alcohol to be consumed by a person under the age of 21, the person that rented the hotel room or facility can be held liable. Moreover, the owner of the facility can be liable if he or she knew the purpose of renting the room was to provide alcohol to underage people. 235 ILCS 5/6-21(a).
Illinois law recognizes three categories of damages that can arise from a violation of the dram shop laws:
- Personal injury damages
- Property damages
- Losses caused by the death or injury of a family member due to an intoxicated person.
The damages due to the injuries and death of a family member include loss of support and society. For example, assume Joe was killed in an automobile accident by an intoxicated driver. The intoxicated driver was served too much alcohol at a bar. In that instance, Joe’s wife could sue the bar owner for the loss of economic support provided by Joe. She could also sue for the loss of Joe’s companionship, also referred to as the society provided by Joe.
However, a cap is placed on the amount of a claim. The Illinois Comptroller, based on the consumer price index, adjusts the cap each year. The Illinois Liquor Control Commission set the following limits for claims arising after January 20, 2016::
$65,990.32 for each claim due to personal injury or death;
$65,990.23 for each claim of damage to property;
$80,654.73 total for loss of support or society.
Each person who is injured or sustains property damage can collect up to $65,990.32 per claim. For example, if Joe and Joanne are injured in an automobile accident and sue based on the dram shop liability, both can collect up to $65,990.32 for the injuries they sustained. The owner of the car can also sue for up to $65,990.23 for the damage to the car. However, if Joe is killed, collectively his family can only receive $80,654.73 for loss of support or society.
Deadline to Have Your Dram Shop Attorney File Action
If you have suffered a loss because someone was intoxicated, and that person was served alcohol in an irresponsible manner by a bar owner or other commercial enterprise, contact a dram shop attorney immediately. Also, if you were injured by an intoxicated person under the age of 21, you may have a claim against a private individual who served alcohol to a minor, depending on the circumstances of where the alcohol was served. Again, act quickly because a dram shop lawsuit must be filed within a year from the date of the accident.