When a person suffers serious or fatal injuries due to the actions of an intoxicated person, the at-fault individual isn’t the only party who may absorb liability for the damages. Georgia is one of 30 states that follow a Dram Shop Liability Law. This law states that if an intoxicated person causes injury or death to another person, the establishment that provided the intoxicated person alcohol may be liable for damages.
It’s important to note that the intoxicated person will still bear the lion’s share of the liability for the damages their actions cause while under the influence, but the statutory provision of Georgia’s Dram Shop Liability guideline provides additional avenues of compensation for injured plaintiffs and their families.
How Does Dram Shop Law Work?
Proprietors and business owners of establishments that serve alcohol must exercise care when serving patrons. It is illegal to sell or serve alcohol to a visibly intoxicated person. It’s important to remember that alcohol affects everyone differently. Two people who consume the same amount of alcohol may appear very different in terms of visible intoxication, but the individuals providing alcohol must keep tabs on the amounts their customers consume.
If an employee knowingly, willingly, and illegally serves alcohol to a visibly intoxicated person, he or she assumes liability if the intoxicated person goes on to injure someone else. It’s vital to note that if the establishment does not serve alcohol, but a patron consumes his or her own alcohol on the premises and goes on to cause injury to someone else, the establishment is not liable for the intoxicated person’s actions.
Georgia’s Dram Shop Law also prohibits the sale of alcohol to minors under the age of 21. While some minors may use fake IDs to secure alcohol, it’s up to business owners and employees of establishments that sell and serve alcohol to ensure patrons have valid photo ID. Assuming that a person is the age he or she claims without verifying his or her ID is not a valid excuse to escape liability for damage the individual later causes.
Social Host Liability
Georgia’s Dram Shop Law also applies to social hosts, or individuals who host parties and social gatherings where alcohol is available. Social hosts are liable for serving alcohol to minors under 21 or to anyone who plans to drive after consuming alcohol. If a social host provides a guest with alcohol and the guest leaves and causes injuries or fatalities, the host would be partially liable for the damages under the Social Host Liability Law. In Georgia, the determining factor is whether or not the host knew the person planned to drive. If the host takes the guest’s car keys and invites the guest to stay until he or she is sober, but the guest leaves anyway, the host is not liable because he or she took appropriate precautions to prevent drunk driving.
Liability and Damages
If a business establishment or social host contributes to someone’s injuries or death by knowingly providing alcohol to a visibly intoxicated person, the business or host will likely face liability in a resulting personal injury lawsuit or wrongful death claim. The plaintiffs in these actions would file lawsuits against the individual who caused the accident as well as the host or establishment that provided the alcohol to the defendants.
Intoxicated persons who cause injuries or fatalities and the establishments that illegally provided these individuals with alcohol can all face liability for a plaintiff’s medical expenses, pain and suffering, lost income, and property damage. Plaintiffs who file lawsuits under Georgia’s Dram Shop Laws will need to secure evidence to support their claims, which often includes statements from witnesses at the establishment during the time the intoxicated person was present, the establishment’s employees, or guests at the social function in question. Camera footage that clearly shows the establishment continuing to serve alcohol to a visibly intoxicated person also comes into play when available.
It’s vital for Georgia business owners to protect themselves from liability and protect other citizens from harm by exercising good judgment in the sale and serving of alcohol to patrons. Once a patron displays signs of intoxication, it’s best to cut him or her off and prevent the individual from driving.