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In Alabama, Serving Drunk People May Not Establish Liability for Car Accident Injuries

Mar 13, 2015 - Car Accidents, Tuscaloosa by

More than half of the states in the U.S. have instituted statutes that can assign liability to parties who serve alcohol to intoxicated individuals who then cause car accidents. These are commonly known as dram shop laws. Alabama currently has no such laws, according to the National Conference of State Legislators.

Even without dram shop laws in Alabama, however, individuals who provide alcohol illegally can still be held liable for related injuries under state civil law. Anyone who suffers injuries due to incidents like these should seek advice from an experienced Tuscaloosa injury lawyer to take advantage of all legal rights available to them.

In Alabama, Drinkers are Considered Negligent When They are Over-served

Alabama law holds drinkers of legal age squarely responsible for their own actions, as long as the individuals who supply the alcohol do so legally. With no dram shop laws in place, bartenders do not have to assess the sobriety of their adult patrons. The law does not require them to refuse to serve intoxicated customers or prevent them from getting behind the wheel of a car.

This is not to say that Alabama has no laws pertaining to alcoholic beverage sales and consumption. In 1990, the Alabama Alcoholic Beverage Control Board implemented a Responsible Vendor Program (RVP). Although the program is largely voluntary, it helps ensure that drinking establishments stay within legal boundaries for serving alcohol. Of course, these laws actually extend beyond drinking establishments to anyone who serve intoxicating beverages. The RVP provides a skilled injury lawyer with the first of many resources when developing a claim for DUI-related injuries.

Breaking the Law Changes the Liability Rules

Alabama law draws the liability line when someone commits a crime by providing alcohol, such as in the following situations:

  • Serving or selling to minors: Any store that sells alcohol to minors faces stiff criminal penalties, including fines and jail time. If a minor becomes involved in an alcohol-related accident as a result of the sale, the seller can be held liable for injuries and other damages.
  • Forcing excessive drinking: Under Alabama law, hazing is a Class C misdemeanor. Thus, fraternities or sororities that require massive amounts of alcohol consumption can potentially face civil lawsuits if a pledge or someone else sustains injuries as a result of a drunken binge — even if the pledge is of legal drinking age.
  • Failing to prevent underage drinking on private property: With certain exceptions, the Alabama Open House Party Law holds adults responsible for underage drinking that occurs on their property. If inebriated minors injure themselves or others as a result of drinking, the adults can be held liable under personal injury law.
  • Selling alcohol in dry counties: Alabama still has quite a number of counties in which the sale of alcohol is prohibit. Anyone who sells or distributes alcohol in these counties could face civil charges for alcohol-related accidents.

There Are Many Options for Protecting the Rights of Victims of Alcohol-Related Accidents

A lack of dram shop laws in no way prevents victims of drunk drivers from pursuing compensation for their injuries. Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol is a serious offense in Alabama. Individuals who commit this offense can easily be held directly liable when they cause injuries.

Additional Resources:

Dram Shop Civil Liability and Criminal Penalty State statutes, June 14, 2013, National Conference of State Legislatures

Other Blog Topics:

Fraternity Injury Liability, Tuscaloosa Personal Injury Blog

Vicarious Liability in Alabama Car Accident Injury Cases, Tuscaloosa Car Accidents Blog

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