What Are the Dram Shop Laws in Pennsylvania?
July 26, 2023
Dram shop laws allow victims and their families to file claims against bars, restaurants, and others for injuries sustained in DUI accidents and other incidents after the negligent service of alcohol. Pennsylvania’s dram shop laws hold liquor license holders legally responsible for the consequences of serving patrons under the age of 21 or people who are “visibly intoxicated” when they cause harm to themselves or others For example, any person or place with a liquor license in Pennsylvania can be held responsible if they serve a visibly intoxicated person who subsequently causes a car accident.
How Do I Know if I Have a Dram Shop Case?
Pennsylvania’s dram shop laws provide that any establishment or licensed individual who serves alcohol to a minor or “visibly intoxicated” person can be legally held responsible for injuries and damages the intoxicated person might cause. Dram shop laws apply to bars, restaurants, and other social establishments. in certain cases, the laws may also apply to hosts and hired companies at private events.
Dram shop lawsuits are often pursued when an intoxicated driver causes a serious car accident with injuries. If evidence confirms that the driver was served additional drinks while already visibly intoxicated (meaning they had slurred speech, glassy eyes, or coordination issues), the restaurant or bar that served him can be held responsible for any harm they cause to themselves or others while they remain intoxicated.
In addition to this common scenario, legal claims can be brought under Pennsylvania dram shop laws in a few different ways.
Common examples of dram shop cases include:
- A visibly intoxicated patron was served alcohol and then started a fight with another person or people.
- The victim was injured in a car crash caused by a driver who was served alcohol as a minor.
- A DUI accident led to the victim’s injuries after the driver was served alcohol while visibly intoxicated.
- An intoxicated person was injured in an accident after being served alcohol as a minor or while visibly intoxicated.
- A bar or restaurant serves alcohol to a visibly intoxicated person who subsequently trips and falls and sustains injuries while walking to the parking lot.
If you were injured because an intoxicated individual was unlawfully served, you may be able to sue the bar, restaurant, or private event host under the dram shop laws in Pennsylvania. Dram shop law cases are typically complex, with multiple parties and insurance policies involved. An experienced lawyer can help you navigate the process and increase the likelihood of a successful outcome for your case.
What Is Social Host Liability in Pennsylvania?
In Pennsylvania, a liability claim can be filed against a social host (such as someone hosting a party in their home) who provides alcohol to a minor who sustains an injury or causes harm to someone else. However, the law does not permit such claims against social hosts who give alcohol to guests at least 21 years old, even if they are visibly intoxicated.
Pennsylvania dram shop laws can affect privately hosted parties in different ways. Caterers or licensed bar services for private parties can be held liable for over-serving a guest who later injures someone else in a car accident. Party hosts who do not hire professional services can also be held responsible for dangerous drinking at their party if a minor guest causes a DUI accident with injuries.
When Do Dram Shop Laws Not Apply?
Pennsylvania Liquor Code section 4-497 provides that an alcohol vendor cannot be held liable for injuries caused by intoxicated customers unless the vendor sold or furnished the alcohol to the customers while they were visibly intoxicated. Courts have held that this limit on liability applies only to “legally competent” customers. This means that a vendor that unlawfully provides alcohol to a minor can be held responsible for injuries subsequently caused by the intoxicated minor.
For Pennsylvania dram shop laws to apply in a car accident or other personal injury case, the following conditions must be met:
- An employee or agent of an establishment served alcohol to a minor or visibly intoxicated person.
- The business or social host’s decision to serve alcohol to a minor or visibly intoxicated person directly caused injuries or damages.
Retaining a knowledgeable lawyer if you were injured due to a violation of Pennsylvania’s dram shop laws is essential. An experienced lawyer can thoroughly investigate the case, gather the necessary evidence, and file claims against all liable parties.
What Damages Can I Obtain in My Dram Shop Case?
Dram shop and social host liability claims for alcohol-related accidents are similar to other personal injury claims. A skilled lawyer can help determine liability and calculate your damages and losses in relation to the accident.
If you or someone you love was injured in a DUI accident or other alcohol-related incident, you may be able to recover the following compensation:
- Medical and hospital bills
- Rehabilitation and therapy expenses
- Out-of-pocket medication costs
- Lost wages
- Diminished earning capacity
- Property damage
- Pain and suffering
What Is The Deadline for Filing a Dram Shop Claim?
As with other personal injury claims, a dram shop or social host claim must be filed within the time limit set by the state’s statute of limitations. In Pennsylvania, this means dram shop claims must be filed within two years of the date of injury, in most cases. Given that every dram shop case is different, consulting with an experienced lawyer as soon as possible after suffering an injury is essential to ensure your rights and best interests are protected.
If you or someone you love was injured in a car crash or other accident caused by an intoxicated person, you could file a dram shop claim for damages against the individual and businesses that sold or served alcohol to that person. Experienced counsel is crucial in these cases.
Contact Galfand Berger LLP Today
Galfand Berger LLP is thoroughly familiar with Pennsylvania’s laws regarding crashes that harm innocent people. We handle a wide range of personal injury cases, including those that involve dram shop laws:
- $1,750,000 recovery in premises liability dram shop action: Our client was the family of a 19-year-old male University of Scranton student who fell to his death after a night celebrating his upcoming 20th birthday. We filed claims against the bar where the decedent was not asked for identification and was served whiskey. We also sued the property owner of the duplex, where the decedent subsequently fell downstairs that lacked a handrail. Other defendants in the case were the students on the lease at two properties where the decedent attended keg parties on the evening of his death. We settled the case before trial for a total of $1,750,000. As a condition of the settlement, the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board required the bar to obtain training and certification in alcohol education. The defendant bar also contributed financially to a scholarship fund the decedent’s parents set up.
Philadelphia Car Accident Lawyers at Galfand Berger LLP Handle Dram Shop Law Cases
If you or someone you love was harmed by an intoxicated person who was unlawfully served alcohol, our Philadelphia car accident lawyers at Galfand Berger LLP are here to help. Call us at 800-222-USWA (8792) or contact us online to schedule a free consultation. Located in Philadelphia, Bethlehem, Lancaster, and Reading, Pennsylvania, we serve clients throughout New Jersey and Pennsylvania, including Allentown and Harrisburg.