Alcohol often plays a part in serious injury claims, and it is common to have questions for an alcohol-related injury lawyer regarding liability when alcohol factors into the equation. Every year, alcohol-related injuries cause hundreds of millions of dollars in losses in the United States, including lost wages, dental and medical expenses, pain and suffering, and lost wages. If alcohol played a part in your injury, the underlying circumstances will dictate whether or not you will be able to recover compensation.
Types of Alcohol-Related Injuries and Claims
There are many types of injuries that happen in relation to alcohol. Slip-and-fall accidents often happen in bars because of spills on the floors or alcohol-related impairment. If a bar is dimly lit, the likelihood of an accident increases. Bar fights also happen when people are intoxicated, and bouncers sometimes use excessive force when removing patrons or breaking up fights.
Tragically, some people drown after consuming alcohol because of slipping or tripping on objects around a pool, lake, or pond, and falling in. People may also develop serious medical conditions because of alcohol consumption, such as cirrhosis of the liver. In domestic violence cases, alcohol and drug use by the perpetrators are two of the leading factors in assaults. Finally, people can be injured or killed in drunk driving accidents as drivers, passengers, bicyclists, or even passersby.
Drunk Driving Accidents
When people drive while intoxicated and cause accidents, they may injure themselves or others. Drunk drivers will not be able to file lawsuits in most cases. Passengers in their vehicles may sue the drunk drivers if the passengers are injured. The occupants of other vehicles that are struck by drunk drivers may file lawsuits against them. Pedestrians, motorcyclists, and bicyclists who are struck by impaired drivers may all file lawsuits against the drivers. Finally, if a drunk driving accident results in someone’s death, the personal representative of the deceased’s estate may sue the driver(s) on behalf of surviving family members.
Dram Shop Liability and Social Host Laws
In some states, people who are injured by drunk drivers who were over-served by bars and then allowed to drive may be able to sue the bar owners under dram shop liability laws. These laws provide that a bar may be liable to the victims when the bar owner or the employees knew or should have known that a patron was drunk but continued to serve the patron anyway. Some states also have similar laws for social hosts. In these states, people who hold parties at which they serve alcohol may be liable to accident victims if they allow drunk guests to drive away. However, some states do not have laws allowing people to sue social hosts, and others severely restrict the ability of victims to sue bars.
Respondeat Superior When Bouncers Use Excessive Force
In some cases, bouncers or door staff members overreact to situations involving intoxicated patrons and use excessive force in order to eject them. If a person is injured by a bouncer or a bar staff member, the person may be able to hold the bar owner liable through the legal theory of respondeat superior. This is a type of vicarious liability in which the bar may be responsible for the actions of its employees. In order to prevail, the victims will need to show that the force used by the bouncer or staff person was unreasonably excessive.
Contributory and Comparative Negligence
If you bear partial responsibility for your accident, your ability to recover damages may be reduced or barred. There are five jurisdictions in the U.S. that follow the doctrine of contributory negligence, including Alabama, Maryland, the District of Columbia, Virginia, and North Carolina. If you are injured in one of these states, you will be barred from recovering damages if you held even a small percentage of the blame.
The remaining states follow either the pure comparative negligence doctrine or the modified comparative negligence doctrine. In the states that follow the pure comparative fault doctrine, including Missouri, a plaintiff will have his or her total award reduced by the percentage of fault that he or she held for the incident. Even if a person was 60 percent at fault, he or she may recover 40 percent of the total losses that he or she suffered in a pure comparative fault state. A majority of the states follow a modified comparative fault rule. In these states, people will only be able to recover damages if they held less than 50 percent of the fault for their accidents.