Person on Crosswalk About to Get Hit by Car

Hit by a Drunk Driver? Why the Bar May Be Responsible

Ranken, Shnider & Taylor, Attorneys at Law May 31, 2023

If you were hit by a drunk driver and injured, suing the driver to obtain compensation is an obvious path to take. You may be able to file a claim against the driver’s liability insurance. If the driver is convicted of the crime of negligent injury, you may be able to file a claim with Hawaii’s Crime Victim Compensation Commission.  

If you are looking for other parties who may be liable for what happened to you, you should consider the source of the driver’s alcohol. If a bar overserved the driver, it too may bear liability under Hawaii’s dram shop precedents. 

When you have been injured in an alcohol-related car accident, you need to work with a personal injury attorney who leaves no stone unturned when it comes to holding others responsible. At Ranken, Shnider & Taylor, Attorney at Law, in Maui, Hawaii, we are stone-turners. We leave nothing to chance when you need to be compensated fairly for all the harm and losses you’ve been subjected to. We fight for your rights, so if you’ve been in a drunk driving accident, reach out to us to schedule a meeting.  

What Is Dram Shop Liability? 

Some states have specific dram shop liability laws. Although Hawaii does not have a law, its courts have held that certain providers can be held legally responsible for the subsequent actions of those they serve alcohol to. Such laws serve a valuable purpose. They clear a legal path to holding accountable those who served alcohol to a drunk person or underage drinker who later harm others. Moreover, research has shown that dram shop liability laws have demonstrated they reduce alcohol-related harms.  

Dram shop liability laws levy liability on those who provide alcohol to people whose negligence injures others. “Dram” is an apt part of the title since it is both a unit of weight and liquid measurement.  

As an example, say a bar serves alcohol to someone who is intoxicated and knows that person is getting behind the wheel of a car, and then that person causes an accident. In this case, it’s possible the bar can be held responsible as well as the driver. That opens the door to an injury victim’s ability to sue the bar that served the alcohol.  

Who Can Be Held Liable? 

Negligence in serving alcohol is not relegated just to bars, restaurants, and nightclubs. However, these types of establishments are subject to Hawaii’s liquor laws, which include the prohibition of the sale of alcohol to those under the age of 21 and to those who are intoxicated. Violations of these laws are why Hawaii’s courts have established a precedent for holding establishments negligent in personal injury claims arising from the negligent acts of their customers.  

Liability for service the alcohol that resulted in an accident also applies to social hosts, but not to the same extent. Social hosts are private individuals who serve alcohol to guests. While they cannot be held accountable for the acts of drunk adults, they can be held liable if they serve alcohol to minors who then injure others. 

For example, a couple hosts a barbecue in their backyard and provides food and alcohol for their guests. They provide no supervision to monitor who is drinking alcohol or turn a blind eye to their underage children and their friends who are drinking. If one of those underage drinkers causes an accident on the drive home and someone is injured, the hosts can be held liable for the victim’s damages.   

How Long Do I Have to Sue? 

Victims have two years from the date of the accident to sue any parties whose negligence caused or contributed to cause their injuries.  

Two years is not long to collect the evidence necessary to prove the negligence of an establishment or social host. Although the drunk driver’s negligence is obvious, the roles other parties played in causing injury may be more challenging to prove. You should work with an experienced personal injury attorney right away.  

What Can I Get Compensated For? 

“Damages” is the term used to describe the harms you have suffered as a result of the car accident. In Hawaii, you can recover compensation for economic damages and noneconomic damages.  

Economic damages are those with a clear price, such as the cost of your medical treatment and the income you lost when you couldn’t work due to your injuries. Your claim may also include future medical costs if you require ongoing treatment for your injuries, as well as future lost income if you are unable to return to your job due to the disability created by your injuries.  

Noneconomic damages include those for which a price is more difficult to value, such as pain and suffering or a spouse’s loss of consortium. Your attorney will place a value on these damages based on understanding the negative impact the accident has had on your life.  

Understand Your Next Steps 

But for those who served the drunk driver alcohol before they climbed behind the wheel of a car, you might not have been injured in an accident. That is why we fight for our clients’ rights to hold more than just the driver responsible for their negligence. Not only does this accountability help make you whole in your claim, but it might prevent them from overserving others in the future.  

If you have been injured by a drunk driver in Maui or anywhere in Hawaii, contact Ranken, Shnider & Taylor, Attorneys at Law to schedule a free consultation. The statute of limitations is brief, so don’t delay. Call now.