If you are involved in a car crash with a drunk driver, you may be shocked and angry. Your anger and shock may turn to outrage when the drunk driver walks away from the car crash unscathed. Meanwhile, you—the victim—may face years of pain and rehabilitation. To add insult to injury, drunk drivers are often unlicensed and uninsured.
Nevertheless, Colorado’s dram shop law does not limit responsibility to drunk drivers. Instead, under the dram shop law, you can recover damages even if the drunk driver is uninsured in Colorado. However, time is of the essence. Under Colorado’s dram shop law, you have only a year to file a claim. Thus, if a drunk driver injures you, you should speak with a Colorado attorney with nearly 25 years of personal injury experience.
What Is a Dram Shop?
A dram is a measurement of a minor amount of alcohol. A dram shop is an establishment that serves alcoholic beverages to the public. In Colorado, bars, restaurants, and nightclubs are typically establishments that face financial liability under the dram shop law. Also, in some instances, a homeowner, as a social host, can face financial consequences under dram shop liability.
What Is Dram Shop Liability?
When a drunk driver causes a bad accident, people usually blame the drunk driver. However, the dram shop law creates a duty of care to the victims of drunk driving crashes. A duty of care means that an owner of a bar or restaurant must use reasonable care when serving alcoholic beverages. If an establishment breaches its duty of care under the dram shop statute, it may face financial liability for drunk driving crashes.
For example, if a bartender serves an alcoholic beverage to a visibly intoxicated person, that establishment may have breached its duty of care to you—the victim. Therefore, under the dram shop law, you can sue an establishment (bar, restaurant, nightclub) for injuries caused to you by an overserved drunk driver.
What Is Colorado’s Dram Shop Law?
The Dram shop statute provides a remedy to the victims of drunk driving. In Colorado, establishments (bars, restaurants, nightclubs) and their employees (bartenders, servers, clerks) might be liable to you for damages caused by a drunk driver they overserved.
Generally, there are two theories of dram shop liability. First, an establishment may have breached its duty to you if it “willfully and knowingly” served someone under 21 years old. For example, you may be able to hold a bar financially responsible if the bartender knew that they were serving a teenager and the teenager subsequently caused a drunk driving accident.
Next, an establishment can also breach its responsibility to you if they over serve a customer. Under Colorado’s Dram Shop Law, an establishment breaches its duty of care when they serve alcohol to a “visibly intoxicated person.” Thus, if a bar serves a drink to a customer slurring their words and falling over, that bar likely breached its duty of care. If the drunk customer causes an auto accident, the victim can hold the bar financially liable under the dram shop law.
The dram shop law applies to victims of a drunk driver. Therefore, if you are injured by a drunk driver, you may be able to hold the establishment that served the drunk driver financially liable.
Can You Hold a Homeowner Liable Under the Dram Shop Law?
Yes, under Colorado’s dram shop law, social hosts owe the victims of drunk drivers a duty of care too. In Colorado, a social host is liable to the victim of a drunk driver. However, for dram shop liability, the social host owes you a duty of care only if they served alcoholic beverages to a person under 21 years old.
Good examples are high school graduation parties. Suppose a parent serves alcohol to a teenager and the teenager drives drunk and causes an accident. The victim of the drunk teenager may be able to hold the parent who served the teenager alcohol financially liable.
Also, under the dram shop statute, a social host owes you a duty of care if they “knowingly provided” a person under 21 years old “a place to consume alcohol.” For example, if parents permit their kids under 21 years old to drink in the home, you can hold the parents financially liable under Colorado’s dram shop law if their kid’s drunk driving causes you an injury.
Again, the social host owes a duty of care to the victims of drunk drivers. Therefore, if you are injured by a drunk driver who is under 21 years old, you may be able to hold the person who served them financially responsible under the dram shop law.
How Do You Hold Someone Liable under Colorado’s Dram Shop Law?
Under dram shop liability, a victim of a drunk driver can collect up to $150,000 from an establishment or social host that a court finds liable. Nevertheless, time is of the essence. When the legislature wrote the dram shop law, it provided only a one-year statute of limitations. Thus, you will not be able to hold a bar, restaurant, or social host financially liable for the actions of a drunk driver they overserved if you do not file a claim within one year of the drunk driving crash.
Why Is It Important to Consult with a Lawyer?
You may face difficulty recouping damages from a drunk driver. Therefore, if you are the drunk driver’s victim, you should immediately consult with a lawyer. An experienced dram shop legal practitioner can assess whether you have a dram shop law claim. Colorado attorney Mark S. Rubinstein has been practicing law in Colorado for nearly 25 years. Call Mark S. Rubinstein, P.C. today or contact us online.