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Over-Served at a Bar: Are Bars Liable for Drunk Driving Car Accidents?

Usually, bars in California are not liable if customers drive drunk and injure someone. The injured person can sue the drunk driver for compensation, but not the bar. One exception to this general rule is if an adult serves alcohol to a minor, which means someone under the age of 21 in our state. Since it is illegal to serve alcohol to a minor, the adult can be financially responsible for harm that results. 

If you got hurt or you lost a loved one because of a drunk driver, a California personal injury attorney could help you pursue the money damages you deserve. Let’s explore the question: Over-served at a bar: are bars liable for drunk driving accidents?

California’s Dram Shop Law

Some states allow you to sue a bar as well as the drunk driver when you get injured in a collision, but not California. It is nearly impossible to prove whether the drunk driver continued drinking alcoholic beverages after leaving the bar, so the bar’s liability could involve a bit of speculation in other states that hold bars responsible. 

Also, the patron might have consumed drinks that other people ordered, which would make it unfair to hold the bartender or establishment liable. They might have refused to serve more alcohol to an obviously intoxicated person if he had ordered the drinks himself.

If you get injured by a drunk driver who is 21 years or older, you might be able to sue the person who drove while under the influence of alcohol, but not the bar where he consumed the beverages. There is, however, one notable exception to California’s dram shop law.

Any Adult Who Serves Alcohol to a Minor Can Be Liable

If a minor got injured or killed or injured or killed someone else while under the influence of alcohol, the adult who served alcohol to the person under the age of 21 can be liable for the harm caused. This means that if the minor drank alcohol served to him at a bar, restaurant, or in a private home, that adult can get sued for the harm he causes or experiences while intoxicated.

The Bar Might Face Criminal Charges for Serving Alcohol to a Known Drunk or Obviously Intoxicated Person

Although they would not get hit with a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit, the bar could get charged with a misdemeanor for violating the law that prohibits any person from serving an adult in those situations. It is always illegal to serve minors alcohol, whether they are clearly drunk or not. 

Money Damages You Might Pursue from the Adult Drunk Driver

If you get injured in a crash caused by a drunk driver, you might be able to seek compensation for your losses, which can include:

  • Lost wages if you missed paychecks when you could not work because of your injuries
  • Medical bills to treat your wounds
  • Pain and suffering for the physical discomfort and emotional distress you experienced because of the collision and your injuries
  • Other losses like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and disfigurement.

You might have additional losses for which a California personal injury attorney could also go after compensation. For legal assistance, get in touch with our office, we offer a free consultation.