According to figures on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, alcohol plays a role in about one-third of crash fatalities. Furthermore, in many cases where there are no deaths, there can be significant injuries such as those to the brain, back or neck, as many Connecticut residents know.
Sometimes, one of the drivers involved in such a crash, the one who is more at fault or entirely at fault, has come from a bar or restaurant where he or she drank alcohol. In fact, the patron could have been so intoxicated that he or she should not have been served more liquor. In such cases, can that establishment be sued and possibly found liable for its role in the crash? Under the state’s dram shop laws, it is possible.
Building a case
Presenting a case against a bar or restaurant is not as simple as saying something like, “Mr. Jones, previous to crashing into Mr. Smith’s car, had spent one hour at XYZ Bar and later showed a BAC of 0.15.”
In fact, there could be many explanations for the 0.15 BAC, and many do not necessarily involve XYZ Bar being responsible. For instance, Mr. Jones could have had one beer at the bar but, unknown to any of the staffers, also been sipping from a vodka-filled flask. After leaving XYZ, Mr. Jones could have gotten into his car and continued drinking more alcohol that came from home. Witnesses might say that Mr. Jones appeared perfectly sober and in control before, during and after his time at the bar.
So, building a case can require considerable time and investigation. It necessitates finding direct links between the bar or restaurant and the driver’s high BAC level. Potential witnesses need to be interviewed, receipts need to be found or credit card statements provided and so on-and all that has to be done within strict time parameters. There needs to be proof that the establishment knew the person was intoxicated and kept serving him or her alcohol anyway. It can also get more complicated to sue if the driver was 21 or older. However, it is still possible in cases of recklessness or malice.
The deadlines to announce the intention to bring a dram shop lawsuit are restricted to 120 days after the person got injured or within 180 days of the injury if a person becomes incapacitated or dies. Then the plaintiff should have one year to sue from the time when the injury occurred.
Connecticut generally limits the maximum amount to be collected to $250,000, but there have been cases where more has been received. People who are wondering if a dram shop lawsuit or similar lawsuit might apply in their case should talk with an attorney.