What Is Dram Shop Liability Law?

Dram Shop Accident Attorneys

Dram shop laws are associated with cases where a person got their alcohol from a business before that person caused an accident when they were still intoxicated. Victims that are injured by intoxicated drivers can use dram shop laws to pursue compensation from the business that sold alcohol to the intoxicated person.


Drams are small units of measurements that were once used by bars or taverns that sold alcohol. Many transactions involved selling a dram of alcohol to one of their customers, hence the name of dram shop laws.

As such, dram shop liability refers to any civil liabilities that might be imposed against modern bars and taverns. In some cases, dram shop liability might also be extended to cover other establishments that also serve alcohol, like clubs and restaurants. It means that if a bar or establishment serves alcohol to someone that later gets into an accident where someone is injured, the injured party might hold the bar or establishment liable for civil damages.

When drunk driving leads to an accident, the consequences are usually disastrous. Alcohol intake is known to delay the reactions of drivers while also impairing their judgment. This can result in drunk drivers driving at higher speeds that more alert drivers would choose. Given that, insurance policy limits might not be sufficient to totally compensate an accident victim for their injuries. Dram shop liability lets accident victims go after the compensation they need or deserve from a business that likely has deeper pockets than the drunk driver does.


Dram shop laws and their respective liabilities are usually put in place at a state by state level. Every state chooses how little or how much it lets establishments to be held liable for any acts of drunken drivers they served. There are a number of legal differences among the various state laws.

One thing that changes frequently from state to state is the legal standard. It\’s up to the plaintiff to establish the burden of proof, and that\’s typically just demonstrating that the bar was negligent. On the other hand, some state statutes have relevant information that might guide a plaintiff and their attorneys towards establishing that negligence.

In many cases, the plaintiff\’s side must demonstrate that whoever was personally serving alcohol to the eventual drunk driver either knew the person was drunk or should have known. Other various factors that might indicate negligence can include a server failing to ask for proof of age, an establishment serving someone after their closing time, or the server provided a patron so much alcohol in a short enough span of time that intoxication would have been likely.

Some states add further penalties if the defendant acted in a reckless manner, but other states cap damages. Some even restrict dram shop liability to cases where the person causing an accident was underage.


Private parties in homes or businesses can sometimes fall into the same area as dram shop laws. Some states have social host liability laws that cover individuals hosting parties or other social functions.

North Carolina Dram Shop Law

North Carolina state statutes regulate the sale of alcohol. These statutes specifically prohibit giving or selling alcohol to intoxicated people or to underage people. State appeals court decisions have allowed injured victims to seek compensation from bars and other businesses for their injuries, medical bills, and other damages.

Give us a call or send us an email to set up a FREE initial consultation today, where you can speak with a personal injury attorney like Lakota R. Denton who will answer your NC dram shop law questions and help you make a plan to move forward with your personal injury case.

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