Carelessness and negligence often go hand-in-hand with intoxication. Whether through injuries occur in falls, fights or other assaults, or drunk driving car accidents, intoxicated individuals often cause others to suffer injuries. While the victim can usually file a civil suit against the drunk driver, under certain circumstances, Georgia’s dram shop liability laws allow victims of these incidents to hold a third party liable if it provided the alcohol to the intoxicated individual.

What are dram shop laws?

Like many other states, Georgia has laws in place that hold bars, restaurants, and other establishments with a liquor license responsible for the actions of the patrons they serve. These laws, called dram shop laws, apply only under very specific circumstances.

When you provide the evidence necessary to meet those elements, you can file a civil lawsuit against the third party that furnished the intoxicated individual with alcohol.

In most cases, this third party is a bar owner, restaurant owner, or other business owner, but Georgia law also allows dram shop suits against private individuals, referred to as social hosts, if you can meet the necessary requirements.

Georgia’s Dram Shop Law

The Georgia Dram Shop Act (O.C.G.A. § 51-1-40) outlines the situations in which a third party may be liable for injuries in a drunk driving accident.

According to this law, a successful claim — no matter if it is against a business or a private individual — requires you provide evidence to meet three elements:

  • The third party served or otherwise furnished drinks to someone who was visibly drunk or underage
  • The third party had reason to believe the person was planning to drive
  • The person’s level of intoxication played a direct role in causing the accident that led to your injuries

While many states have similar liquor liability laws — 43 states and the District of Columbia — Georgia is fairly unusual in that the state requires that the server or host has reason to believe the intoxicated individual is planning to drive. For example, if the bartender thought the intoxicated person was going to take a cab, he or she would not be liable.

This is true no matter if the person serving the alcohol is a bartender or other business employee, or social host. This makes dram shop claims in Georgia somewhat more difficult to prove than those in a number of other states.

Recovering Compensation Through Civil Dram Shop Claims

The compensation you can recover in a civil dram shop claim parallels the types of damages available in other personal injury claims. Depending on the severity of your injuries, the treatment you require, how much ongoing care you require and other factors, common damages in Georgia civil suits include: 

  • Medical bills
  • Ongoing care costs
  • Property damage
  • Lost wages
  • Limited income caused by disability
  • Pain and suffering

It is also important to note that you have a limited amount of time to file a civil suit under Georgia’s negligence laws, which provide the statute of limitations in dram shop cases.

You have two years from the date of the accident to file any claim for compensation in court. In some cases, more pressing deadlines apply. For this reason, it is imperative to discuss your case with a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible after suffering injuries in a crash.

Do I need a lawyer to pursue a dram shop claim in Georgia?

Dram shop claims require an in-depth knowledge of the law that most individuals outside of personal injury attorneys do not possess. Even in a case where a car accident claim against the drunk driver is fairly simplistic, showing the vendor is responsible for the driver’s actions is difficult.

These claims require extensive investigation, interviewing eyewitnesses, and researching past case law for similar claims. Discussing your case with a knowledgeable Georgia personal injury attorney familiar with state dram shop laws is the best way to determine the merits of your claim.

Call the Law Office of Jason R. Schultz, PC Today

If you suffered injuries in an Atlanta drunk driving accident, you may have several options for compensation. In some cases, you may be able to pursue a claim against the vendor who served the drunk driver, in addition to the intoxicated motorist.

To learn more about how the Georgia dram shop laws may apply in your case, call the Law Office of Jason R. Schultz, P.C. Schedule a free case evaluation by calling 404-474-0804 today.