Were You Injured by a Drunk Driver? Dram Shop Liability May Play a Role in Your Claim

Bars, restaurants, and liquor stores have a duty not to sell alcohol to visibly intoxicated patrons.  Vendors who ignore this responsibility and go ahead with a sale may be liable for car accident injuries caused by the drunk driver they served.  This concept is known as “dram shop liability.”  A “dram” is an old-fashioned word for a small serving of gin, which is where the term gets its unusual name.  If you were injured by a drunk driver in Oklahoma, dram shop laws may impact your case.  You should speak with an experienced Oklahoma City car accident lawyer for more information about getting injury compensation.

How Many Oklahoma Car Accidents Are Caused by Drunk Driving?

Despite being completely preventable, drunk driving is often a factor in automotive accidents.  You can see this clearly for yourself by looking at government accident data and comparing the drunk driving figures against the overall death and injury statistics.

According to the Oklahoma Highway Safety Office’s 2014 crash report, there were a total of 68,327 car accidents in Oklahoma that year.  22,673 were injury crashes, and 589 crashes were fatal, resulting in:

  • 3,042 incapacitating injuries (from the OHSO persons report)
  • 11,690 non-incapacitating injuries
  • 669 deaths

The same year, a total of 3,558 car accidents involved drunk driving.  1,598 were injury crashes, and 151 crashes were fatal.  These Oklahoma DUI accidents resulted in:

  • 399 incapacitating injuries
  • 938 non-incapacitating injuries
  • 172 deaths

These numbers mean about 5% of all car accidents reported in Oklahoma in 2014 — roughly one in 20 — had driver intoxication as a cause or contributing factor.

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That percentage increases greatly when you exclude property damage only (PDO) crashes: alcohol was a factor in about 7% of all injury crashes, and about 25.6% of all fatal crashes.  Drunk driving accounted for 13.1% of all incapacitating injuries, 8% of all non-incapacitating injuries, and 25.7% of all deaths in vehicular accidents statewide in 2014.  Despite being a factor in only about 5% of all accidents, DUI causes a disproportionate number of injuries and fatalities.

Crashes involving alcohol in Oklahoma were most likely to take place in May (likely due in part to Memorial Day weekend parties), on Saturdays, and between the hours of 2:00 A.M. and 3:00 A.M. when people are returning home from bars.  These intoxicated drivers pose a serious risk to other Oklahomans on the road — but they aren’t the only ones who may be liable when a vehicular accident occurs.

What is Dram Shop Liability?

Every time you enter a liquor store, you notice the same detail: a sign stating the business will not sell alcohol to patrons who are visibly intoxicated, or to patrons who are under the legal drinking age of 21.  The sale of alcohol to minors and intoxicated people is banned under 37 O.S. § 537.  Violating this law is a felony offense for which the offender may be fined and incarcerated.

Selling alcohol to intoxicated and/or underage patrons can have civil as well as criminal repercussions if another person is consequently injured.  In 1986, a key case known as Brigance v. The Velvet Dove Restaurant arose after the Velvet Dove Restaurant served alcohol to a visibly intoxicated patron, who later caused an accident.  In Brigance, the court ruled that alcohol vendors, like bars and restaurants, could be held liable for drunk driving accidents caused by patrons who were served alcohol in spite of being visibly intoxicated.

Selling alcohol to a noticeably intoxicated customer is an act of recklessness, because the vendor has reason to know the customer is likely to cause an accident in his or her impaired state.  By making the sale anyway, the vendor is knowingly disregarding this very serious and obvious risk.  Bars, restaurants, and liquor stores have a duty to refuse a sale in this situation.

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It is the plaintiff’s responsibility, or “burden of proof,” to establish that the defendant acted with recklessness (or, in many personal injury matters, negligence, which describes a careless failure to take adequate precautions against foreseeable hazards).  Proving negligent or reckless conduct is a vital part of any Oklahoma personal injury claim, not only against drunk drivers, but all motorists who cause avoidable accidents.

Injured By a Drunk Driver? Contact an Oklahoma City Car Accident Lawyer of Hasbrook & Hasbrook

If you were hit by a drunk driver in Oklahoma City or the surrounding area, you may be able to recover compensation for your medical bills, lost earnings, and other hardships caused by the collision.  Call the Oklahoma injury lawyers of Hasbrook & Hasbrook at (405) 698-3040 right away to set up a free, completely confidential legal consultation.  We will help you understand the legal options that may be available to you and your loved ones if you have been injured in a preventable crash.  We also handle Oklahoma truck accidents and motorcycle accident injuries.