Holding Bars, Pubs and Restaurants Liable for Drunk Driving AccidentsDrunk driving accidents are often deadly. The intoxicated driver may steer into your lane or hit your car in the rear. Drunk drivers run through red lights and stop signs. There’s virtually no way to drive defensively if you see a driver who isn’t in control. Survivors often suffer severe injuries including traumatic brain injury, spinal cord damage, paralysis, broken bones, muscle pain, and other physical harm.

The driver has the primary responsibility for your accident. Unfortunately, some drunk drivers don’t carry insurance, or don’t have enough insurance to pay for all your pain and suffering, medical bills, and lost wages. Our Nashville car accident lawyers work to determine if anyone else might be liable.

Tennessee’s “dram shop” laws give very little leeway

Here’s the deal: Tennessee does have a dram shop law (of sorts), but it is INCREDIBLY difficult to pursue. Generally speaking, the Courts believe that people are responsible for their own actions, and therefore, a drunk driver is to blame – not the establishment that served him or her. Still there are some circumstances under which you can hold an establishment responsible if you are hurt by drunk driver. All 12 members of a jury have to decide, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that

“the sale by such person of the alcoholic beverage or beer was the proximate cause of the personal injury or death sustained and that such person:

  • Sold the alcoholic beverage or beer to a person known to be under the age of twenty-one (21) years and such person caused the personal injury or death as the direct result of the consumption of the alcoholic beverage or beer so sold; or
  • Sold the alcoholic beverage or beer to a visibly intoxicated person and such person caused the personal injury or death as the direct result of the consumption of the alcoholic beverage or beer so sold.”

TN Code § 57-10-102 (2017)

The standard of proof in most civil cases is that the plaintiff must show fault by a preponderance of the evidence. The reasonable doubt standard is the normal standard in a criminal case. In dram shop cases, the much tougher reasonable doubt standard applies.

Bars, hotels, and other businesses that sell the liquor can be held accountable if the dram shop conditions are met. Social hosts who serve liquor generally can’t be held liable. Social hosts can, however, be charged with a criminal offense if they give liquor to a minor under 21.

Dram shop claims must be filed within the applicable statute of limitations. You should speak with a lawyer as soon as possible after the accident to make sure you file your legal time one time.

At the Rocky McElhaney Law Firm, our Gladiators in Suits hold everyone and every business accountable. Bars and other liquor establishments make large profits from the drinks they serve. These profits shouldn’t come at the expense of the safety of drivers and pedestrians. The companies who wrongfully serve liquor should pay for the injuries they cause and the deaths they cause. We have offices in Nashville, Hendersonville, Knoxville, and throughout Tennessee. To speak with an attorneys experienced in these matters, please phone us at 615-246-5549 or use our contact form to make an appointment. We will fight for you!