Alcohol Related Accidents and Alabama’s Dram Shop Law

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), every day, 36 people in the United States die, and approximately 700 more are injured, in motor vehicle accidents that involve an alcohol-impaired driver.  In 2006, 13,470 people died in alcohol -impared driving crashes, accounting for nearly one third of all traffic-related deaths in the United States.  The same ratio held true for Alabama, as there were 1,206 traffic accident fatalities in Alabama in 2006, 384 (32%) involved drivers who had a BAC (Blood Alcohol Content) of .08 or higher.

Often, the intoxicated driver’s condition is set into motion by a bar, restaurant or package store that unlawfully sells or furnishes alcohol to this intoxicated driver. Many states, including Alabama, have laws in place that regulate the sell and distribution of alcohol.  These laws are also known as Dram Shop Laws.

Alabama code section 6-5-71 provides a cause of action for spouses, parents, and children who shall be injured in person, property, or means of support by any intoxicated person.  This section grants these individuals a right of action against any person who shall, by selling, giving, or disposing of alcohol to another, contrary to the provisions of law.

The Alabama ABC Board controls alcoholic beverages through distribution, licensing, and enforcement.  Pusuant to Ala. ABC Reg.§ 20-X-6-.02(4):  No ABC Board on-premises licensee, employee or agent therefore shall serve any person alcoholic beverages if such person appears, considering the totality of the circumstances, to be intoxicated.  This means that if a bar, restaurant or package store sells an alcoholic beverage to someone who under the totality of the circumstances appears to be intoxicated that establishment can be held liable for any damages that result from that sell.  For example, if John Doe goes into Bar X and he is slurring his speech, staggering, and exhibiting the signs of being intoxicated and Bar X continues to serve John alcohol and John leaves Bar X and gets involved in a car accident with Sally Jones, then Sally Jones could potentially have a lawsuit against not only John Doe, but against Bar X for violating Alabama’s Dram Shop laws.

For more information on drinking and driving visit the mothers against drunk driving (madd)’s  website.