When an intoxicated driver causes an accident and subsequent injuries in Florida, the victim and/or his or her family has the right to file a personal injury lawsuit for damages. For the intoxicated driver, a civil lawsuit could increase his or her financial hardship even more following a DUI arrest.
To help ease the financial burden, the driver may wonder if dram shop laws apply. If they do, it would mean the driver could share liability with the bar or alcohol retailer who sold him or her the alcohol in the first place.
Dram shop laws
According to FindLaw, dram shop laws, and similar “social host liability” laws, allow victims and their family members to sue bars and alcohol distributors for the injuries, death and other damage that an intoxicated customer causes. The theory behind dram shop laws is that the intoxicated driver would not have been in such a state had the bartender or retailer cut him or her off at a reasonable point. The theory behind social host liability laws is that a responsible host would have withheld the keys from the intoxicated person.
Dram shop laws vary considerably from state to state, with some states not recognizing them at all. States that do have dram shop laws, however, generally require the plaintiff to prove four things:
- Proof that the bartender or retailer sold the patron alcohol
- That the patron caused injuries or damages
- That there exists a relationship between the intoxication and sale of the alcohol
- The intoxication played a significant role in the accident that caused the damages
Florida’s dram shop laws
In most cases, Florida does not recognize dram shop laws, according to Section 768.125 of the Florida Statutes. If the defendant is of or over drinking age, the state presumes that he or she understood the possible consequences of consuming alcohol and therefore, will hold him or her solely liable for whatever damages he or she caused while intoxicated. However, if the defendant is underage and a bartender or retailer served him or her alcohol knowing full-well the customer’s minor status, the courts may hold the vendor solely liable for damages the intoxicated minor caused.