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What are ‘Dram Shop” laws?

Despite the fact that people are well aware of the risks and consequences of driving while under the influence of alcohol, far too many still choose to operate their vehicles after having one too many libations. The number of car accidents that occur as a result of drinking and driving continues to climb year after year, putting innocent people on the roads at risk of suffering a severe injury or worse, a fatality.

Individuals who are injured, or who have loved ones who are killed, by a drunk driver may be able to hold the driver responsible. But many people may not realize that if the drunk driver had been over-served at an establishment serving liquor or a social gathering, the host may also be held liable in the accident. Host liability laws, which also are referred to as dram shop laws, allow people who are injured in a drunk driving accident to file a lawsuit against the establishment (or social host) responsible for providing the driver with too much alcohol.

What are dram shop laws?

Dram shop laws are a unique set of laws that may be applicable in personal injury cases that involve an individual who has been injured by a driver who was intoxicated at the time of the motor vehicle accident. Colorado is among 38 states that have dram shop laws.

Colorado’s dram shop laws apply specifically to businesses. There are two key components under which the businesses may be held liable: 1) for serving alcohol to a minor who under the age of 21 and 2) continuing to serve a visibly- intoxicated individual who causes a motor vehicle accident resulting in injury or death. It is important to note that Colorado businesses can be held liable in dram shop cases even if the injury that results was not predictable or foreseeable. In short, the business cannot escape liability by claiming the bartender or server was not aware the customer intended to drive.

When can dram shop laws be applied?

Dram shop laws can be applied in Colorado if an individual is injured by an intoxicated person who was served alcohol illegally or who has served alcohol despite being visibly drunk. It is critical that injured individuals work with an experienced Denver personal injury attorney who understands dram shop laws in the state.

What damages can be sought under dram shop laws?

Similar to other personal injury cases, individuals who are injured in a dram shop case may seek damages for health care costs, lost wages and the impact the injury had on their quality of life. In Colorado, damages in dram shop cases cannot exceed $150,000. In addition, there is a one-year statute of limitations on these cases in Colorado.

What should you do in the event of an injury caused by a drunk driver?

If you or someone you love are injured or killed by a driver who is operating a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, you need to secure the assistance of an attorney who will help you prosecute the individual to the full extent of the law. A qualified attorney who has an expert understanding of personal injury law as well as Colorado dram shop laws will be able to collect the necessary evidence to prove your case and provide you with the best results possible. 

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