Can Georgia bars be liable for drunk driving injuries?

There is no question that drunk driving collisions can have devastating consequences. Indeed, not only can these accidents result in death, but those fortunate enough to survive may suffer severe injuries that require years of treatment and rehabilitation.

Thankfully, victims of drunk driving accidents in Georgia do have legal remedies available. For instance, they can seek legal recourse against the drunk drivers that caused their injuries.

However, given that an intoxicated driver's insurance provider may argue it does not cover drunk driving accidents, it is important for victims to be aware that other potential avenues of legal accountability may exist in Georgia. For instance, victims may be able to seek damages from the bar or tavern that got the driver drunk in the first place.

Dram Shop liability in Georgia

Specifically, Georgia's Dram shop statute dictates when a victim can hold a bar liable for its part in contributing to a drunk driving accident. While this particular provision initially states that a person who sells or serves alcohol cannot be held liable for any resulting injury or death, it also creates two very important exceptions to this rule.

For example, these exceptions are: 1) when the person sells, furnishes or serves alcohol to an underage individual or 2) to an individual who is in a state of "noticeable intoxication." In both instances, the victim must be able to show that the person providing the alcohol knew the intoxicated individual would soon be driving a vehicle.

Thus, there are four elements a drunk driving victim needs to be able prove in Georgia in order to hold a bar or tavern liable for his or her injuries:

  • The bar sold, served or otherwise furnished the alcohol to the individual
  • The bar knew the individual was not of legal drinking age or in a state of noticeable intoxication
  • The bar knew the individual would soon be driving a motor vehicle
  • The intoxicated individual caused an injury to another party that was proximately caused by the consumption of alcohol

It is important to note, though, that there are several defenses that a bar may use in order to escape potential liability. For example, it may argue that it relied upon false identification that indicated a minor was of legal drinking age, which, under Georgia law, could sever liability. It is important for victims to be aware of these possible defenses so that they can be preemptively addressed.

Legal assistance if often a good idea

Ultimately, establishing the necessary elements to prove a Dram Shop case can be very difficult in Georgia - often requiring a careful analysis of the facts. Consequently, it is often best to seek the counsel of an experienced drunk driving accident attorney if you or a loved one has been injured by an intoxicated driver and feel that a bar or tavern may be partially to blame. An attorney can assist with investigating the cause of the accident and help ensure your rights are protected.