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Holding Charleston Businesses Accountable for Over Serving Drivers

Like most states in the U.S. South Carolina has dram shop laws. The term “dram shop” is derived from 18th Century England, where alcohol was measured in drams. One dram is equivalent to 3/4 teaspoon. Pubs, taverns, and other establishments that served drams of alcohol were called dram shops.

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- Julian Allen

What Are Dram Shop Laws?

Today, dram shop laws refer to the legal liability of establishments that serve alcohol to intoxicated customers for the damage those customers cause. If a bar or restaurant continues to serve a visibly intoxicated patron, and that person causes a DUI auto accident, the bar or restaurant can be held liable for injuries sustained in the crash. The victim can also bring a civil suit against the drunk driver. Dram shop laws would also apply if the intoxicated patron caused bodily injury or property damage in a way other than an auto accident.

What Types of Businesses May Be Held Liable Under Dram Shop Laws?

Dram shop laws apply to different types of businesses. Any establishment that over-serves an intoxicated person or sells alcohol to a minor, who then drives drunk and causes a crash or otherwise injures someone, risks liability for damages. Dram shop liability can be incurred by any business that holds a liquor license, including:

  • Bars
  • Restaurants
  • Night clubs
  • Taverns
  • Liquor stores
  • Convenience stores

What Must You Prove to Win a Dram Shop Liability Auto Accident Claim?

To prevail in a Charleston dram shop claim against an establishment for injuries sustained in DUI collision, you must prove that:

  • Alcohol consumed by the drunk driver was the proximate cause of your injuries: This can be established if the driver is convicted of DUI.
  • The bar, restaurant, or other establishment breached its duties to identify intoxicated customers; require ID (proof of legal age) before serving alcohol to customers; refuse to serve alcohol to intoxicated or underage customers; and seek alternative transportation, such as a cab, for intoxicated customers.
  • The establishment should have reasonably known that the customer was intoxicated or underage: Legal age could be determined by asking to see ID. Intoxication could be determined by observing the behavior of the intoxicated person or by the number and type of drinks served to the person within a certain time period.

Can Private Individuals Be Held Liable Under Dram Shop Laws?

Guests can drink at private parties, drive drunk when they leave, and cause accidents. A social host who serves alcohol to a guest who drives under the influence and causes a crash is only liable for damages in South Carolina if the drunk driver was under the legal drinking age of 21. The host cannot be held liable if a guest who is age 21 or older becomes intoxicated, drives drunk, and causes a crash.

How Long Do You Have to File a Claim Under Dram Shop Laws?

The statute of limitations (time limit imposed by law) for personal injury claims in South Carolina is generally three years. If you were under the age of 18 at the time you were injured in a traffic crash caused by a drunk driver, the statute of limitations will pause until the day you turn 18, after which you will have one year to file a lawsuit.

If you have been seriously injured in a crash caused by a drunk driver, call Allen Law at (843) 882-5005 to schedule a free consultation. Our experienced Charleston auto accident attorney can investigate your accident to determine liability and help you pursue a claim against the responsible parties.