For any kind of a case where you’re pursuing a negligence claim against a drunk driver, you have to prove that it’s negligent to drive when you’re intoxicated. That’s fairly straightforward and common sense that you shouldn’t drive when intoxicated. You would be able to obtain the blood alcohol levels of the driver usually from police reports, and then you would have to get experts to explain that at a certain level of intoxication, through blood alcohol, a person is impaired and should not drive.
The evidence that’s required to prove that the driver was intoxicated, when they were continually served, is a little bit trickier. That’s where you need eyewitness testimony that the person was misbehaving at the bar. They were visibly drunk, had slurred speech and were stumbling about. Bars all have surveillance for the most part, so you’d want to obtain that right away. We are able to extrapolate blood alcohol levels at the time of service with samples obtained by the police. This would be through your experts, your pathologists or your chemists, who can go back and say that a person’s blood alcohol level was at a certain level and they clearly would be showing signs of intoxication.
Well documented scientific studies and statistics tell us that at a certain blood alcohol level everybody has bloodshot eyes, slurred vision and poor reflexes.
How Difficult is A Dram Shop Case When You Are Going Up Against An Establishment?
You need to seek an attorney promptly because there can be spoliation of evidence that would be required. Sometimes surveillance tapes are only kept for a short period of time, and then they record over, sometimes as quickly as 30 or 60 days. So if you need the surveillance of what the patrons in the bar looked like, you would need to put the bar on notice fairly promptly to keep all their surveillance and not discard it.
Oftentimes, though, if the police are involved and investigating a significant or serious accident, they will also notify the bar that there was an accident and the people involved were at the bar. So then the police will request that the establishment keep and preserve all potential evidence because it’s also a potential criminal investigation.
Why is An Immediate Investigation Imperative In Dram Shop Cases?
To preserve critical evidence. You need independent evidence that shows that the driver was visibly intoxicated while they were at the establishment and being served alcohol. So that would involve surveillance tapes and witnesses. People’s memories fade over time, so you obviously want to interview people as close to the time of the accident as possible because it’s just human nature to forget things, and especially if those individuals are people who may have been consuming some alcohol as well.
What Are Recoverable Damages In A Dram Shop Case?
Just like any other personal injury case, you are compensated for bodily injury and pain and suffering that go along with the bodily injury. Economic losses, such as any kind of work loss and mounting medical bills, are also recoverable damages.
Are Punitive Damages Available In Dram Shop Cases?
Certainly, and oftentimes, when you have bartenders or people serving alcohol to visibly intoxicated persons, that often gets an award of punitive damages because the risk associated with somebody driving, while intoxicated, is so high and so expected that punitive damages really do, in a way, help prevent this kind of behavior from being permitted to occur.
Should The Criminal Case Be Completed Before Filing A Civil Case In An Alcohol-Related Accident?
It doesn’t have to be completed, but you do have to keep in mind that if there is a pending criminal action while there is a pending civil action, the accused driver cannot be forced to testify against him or herself, or provide any kind of self- incriminating evidence during the civil proceeding. So you obviously want to ask questions of the drunk driver to establish your case, but they’re not going to do anything that might incriminate themselves if the criminal charges have not been finalized. It is a fine line that you have to walk in pursuing a civil case when there are criminal charges that are pending.
Why is An Experienced Personal Injury Attorney Necessary For Handling A Dram Shop Case?
These are highly technical cases in that they do require extensive investigation, and that obviously involves obtaining surveillance and interviewing witnesses, but you also need to retain the necessary and proper expert witnesses that are required to pursue this case. You also need to understand what you’re presenting, so you really do have to have a good knowledge of the science as well.
So it’s highly technical; and as with other potentially significant cases where there could be large awards, it will generally be litigated thoroughly. So you do want an attorney who also knows how to litigate and try a case. You can’t assume that these cases will settle without going to court, so you also want an attorney that’s an experienced trial attorney.
What Sets Your Firm Apart In Handling Dram Shop Cases?
Our results speak for themselves. We’ve handled dram shop cases over the years, and we’ve gotten sizeable recoveries for our clients, who have been injured as a result of being injured by a drunk driver.
For more information on Damages In A Dram Shop Case, a free initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (215) 569-1212 today.