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Is a Bar Liable for Their Patron’s DUI Car Crash?

Posted on February 22, 2023 in Car Accident,DUI

Most people know that if a drunk driver causes a car accident, he or she can be held legally and financially responsible, or liable. What many people do not realize is that under Arizona law, the bar or establishment that served the drunk driver alcohol leading up to the crash could also be held liable. This is known as a dram shop law, and it only applies in specific circumstances.

Arizona’s Dram Shop Law

According to Arizona Revised Statute Section 4-311, a “dram shop” or licensed liquor provider could be found liable for property damage and personal injuries if the establishment sold alcohol to an individual who was obviously intoxicated or under the legal drinking age, if the individual consumed the alcohol provided by the shop and went on to cause the car accident in question. 

Under this law, if a bar overserved a patron or served someone under the legal drinking age, and this patron went on to cause a DUI car accident, the bar could be held liable. For this law to apply, the drunk driver must have been obviously intoxicated when the bar served him or her. This means intoxication that would have been obvious to a reasonable person, such as a substantial impairment of the patron’s physical faculties.

A bar can also be held liable for a car crash caused by an underage individual. If the establishment did not request identification from the individual to ensure that he or she was at least 21 years old, or if a bartender knew that someone was under the legal drinking age but served the individual anyway, the bar could be held liable for a subsequent DUI car crash caused by the underage drinker.

Social Host Liability for DUI Car Crashes in Arizona

If an investigation finds that an individual who caused a drunk driving car accident obtained the intoxicating liquor at a private party instead of a bar or licensed establishment, the host could face liability for the wreck. This is known as social host liability in Arizona. It only applies to cases where the social host provides alcohol to a person under the age of 21. 

Unlike dram shops, a social host will not face liability for overserving an already intoxicated individual. However, a social host could be held liable for a DUI car crash just for failing to prevent a minor from consuming alcohol, even if the host did not directly provide the minor with alcohol.

Is the Drunk Driver Also Liable in a Dram Shop Case?

Whether or not the bar or alcohol provider is held liable for a drunk driving crash under Arizona law, the intoxicated driver who caused the accident will still face liability for his or her actions. A dram shop lawsuit brought by an accident victim does not protect the drunk driver from civil action. The driver could still face both criminal and civil penalties for causing property damage, personal injuries or wrongful death in a drunk driving accident case.

If a drunk driver is found liable for a collision, he or she may be required to pay for damages and restitution. Damages may include victims’ medical expenses, lost income, disability or disfigurement, property damage, pain and suffering, and funeral and burial expenses in the case of wrongful death. Restitution is an additional amount that may be ordered by a judge, both to reimburse a victim and punish the defendant. Combined with the criminal fines and penalties of being convicted of a DUI, a civil lawsuit brought by crash victims could make the financial toll of this crime immense.

If you get arrested for allegedly causing a drunk driving car accident in Arizona, contact an aggressive Tempe DUI defense lawyer at Rosenstein Law Group for a free case consultation. One of our experienced defense attorneys can walk you through Arizona’s dram shop laws and how they may affect a civil case against you.

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