What are Ohio’s Dram Shop Laws?

Whenever someone drives while impaired, they pose a threat to themselves and everyone else on the road. The driver’s lowered reaction time, lack of coordination, and lack of concentration mean they could cause severe damage in a crash.

If you’re hit by a drunk driver, you could face extremely high repair costs and expensive medical bills. You shouldn’t face this financial burden alone. You are entitled to compensation from the drunk driver, and under Ohio dram shop laws, others who contributed to the driver’s intoxication may owe you compensation too.

Learn more about dram shop liability and when you might have a case to recover damages from a restaurant or bar.

What is a Dram Shop Law?

Dram shops are commercial establishments that sell alcohol, such as bars, restaurants, or liquor stores. The term “dram shop” originated in 18th-century Britain: a “dram” is how they measured alcohol servings.

In Ohio, dram shop liability refers to a civil action against the establishment for its involvement in a personal injury accident that happened because the defendant was drunk.

There are two circumstances where a dram shop is liable for an injury accident. First, if someone was drunk on the premises and hurt someone, whoever served them alcohol could be held responsible if negligence is evident.

Second, there might be a case for liability if the establishment knowingly served alcohol to someone who was noticeably drunk, or to someone they knew was underage before they caused an injury accident away from the premises. Say the bartender could tell the patron was already drunk before serving them more alcohol. There might could be a valid dram shop liability claim if the patron drove drunk and caused a crash.

Can You Sue a Homeowner for Dram Shop Liability?

If you were injured by someone who was served too much alcohol at someone’s private property, you may not be able to sue the host for damages. Dram shop laws apply to business establishments, not private citizens.

There could be a chance you could pursue compensation from a homeowner if they knowingly served someone younger than the drinking age before that person hurt someone in an accident. Imagine a homeowner, Greg, was hosting a party. He gives Stephen drinks, even though Stephen is only 20. Stephen decides to drive home drunk after Greg has over-served him.

Stephen hits Angela on his way home, injuring her. Angela can pursue compensation from Greg because he over-served someone who wasn’t old enough to drink and it contributed to her damages, on top of any injury claims against Stephen. This is a matter of “social host” liability, not dram shop liability.

Why Can a Bar Owner Be Liable after a Drunk Driving Accident?

Any business that contributed to someone else’s injury can be held accountable because their actions contributed to the negligence around the situation. In legal terms, negligence is the idea that someone did not act like a normal person would have in the same situation.

For instance, it’s illegal for people to drive over the legal Blood Alcohol Concentration limit. A drunk driver is negligent when they cause a crash because a rational person would not have been driving drunk.

A dram shop owner or employee can be found responsible for another person’s negligence if they did not take the proper steps to avoid contributing to a crash. When a bartender notices signs of intoxication and gives the intoxicated patron a drink knowing the patron wants to drive, the bartender is contributing to the possibility of an injury crash.

How Do You Prove Dram Shop Liability?

Proving a dram shop contributed to a drunk driver’s negligence can be tricky. You’ll need to retrace the driver’s steps leading up to the accident. You’ll also have to show that the server should reasonably have seen signs of intoxication.

Proving the driver was drunk is probably the least challenging task in a dram shop liability case. A thorough investigation can reveal the dram shops they visited before the crash. The more difficult task is gathering evidence that shows the server knew the driver was intoxicated before serving them more alcohol.

What Damages are Available in a Dram Shop Case?

Like other personal injury cases, you can recover losses caused by the car crash—both economic and non-economic losses. Economic losses are out-of-pocket costs, including medical bills, lost wages, and damaged property repairs.

Non-economic losses are more difficult to calculate. These are conceptual damages caused by your car accident. For example, you can pursue compensation for mental anguish, post-traumatic stress, or loss of socialization that you’ve directly suffered in the aftermath of the crash. Many people overlook these types of losses, but a knowledgeable personal injury attorney can help you calculate them.

If you can prove the dram shop was “egregiously” negligent, you may be able to pursue punitive damages. These damages are not meant to help you rebuild your life. Instead, they are meant to punish the dram shop and serve as an example to discourage over-serving in the future. However, punitive damages are not permitted in every case. Your attorney can help determine if they apply in your circumstances.

How Can a Lawyer Help My Claim?

If you’ve been hurt in an accident caused by a drunk driver, you deserve compensation for your losses. Even if you feel the injuries are minor or the damage to your vehicle are manageable, the drunk driver should be held accountable for their actions. If a bar or restaurant sold alcohol to the defendant when they were clearly intoxicated, that dram shop should pay for the defendant’s share of the plaintiff’s damages.

A knowledgeable drunk driving accident lawyer can help you find the shops the driver visited before your accident. They can investigate your case and determine who shares liability for your losses. They can ensure your case is solid so you can secure the maximum compensation. A personal injury lawyer can handle negotiations with the defense while you recover.

Call an Ohio Dram Shop Liability Attorney Now

At Kademenos, Wisehart, Hines, Dolyk & Wright Co. LPA, we know how traumatizing a car accident with a drunk driver can be. We have helped clients in similar situations recover millions for their injuries. Any business that chooses their profits over other people’s safety by selling to an already drunk driver should be held accountable.

Our lawyers are ready to review your case and help you pursue justice. We understand how difficult it is to deal with crash with a drunk driver. Let us ease your worries and guide you towards maximum compensation. Schedule your free consultation by calling (419) 625-7770 or using our contact form.