Dram shop laws enacted in most states make a business that sells alcoholic drinks or a host who serves liquor to a drinker who is obviously intoxicated (or close to it), strictly liable to anyone injured by the drunken patron or guest. However, since state laws do vary on dram shop and social host liability when someone is named as the "at fault" party in an accident, many Florida residents and business owners do not fully understand their responsibilities. Nonetheless, violations under Florida law are serious matters, whether you were the person who was served alcohol, the injured accident victim, or the source that served the alcohol.
Dram Shop Laws versus Social Host Laws
If you are injured in a drunk driving accident in Florida, you likely have the ability to bring a lawsuit for restitution of certain physical and financial damages. Moreover, in our state, it does not mean that the drunk driver is the only person responsible, as hosts of social events as well as bars and clubs may be held partially liable under a couple of laws:
- Dram Shop Laws - Florida has dram shop laws that apply to business/customer situations where an individual becomes intoxicated at a bar or club, then is involved in an accident after leaving the establishment. Unlike many states, Florida dram laws do not hold a vendor responsible for serving alcohol to someone who might appear drunk. Instead, it is unlawful to serve a person who is not of legal age or who is known to be habitually addicted to alcohol.
- Social Host Laws - Florida's social host laws do not place liability on a host for serving alcohol to someone who is known to have problems with alcohol addiction. It does totally prohibit the serving of alcohol or drugs to any minors. It is also a criminal offense to allow minors to use or possess alcohol or drugs at a social gathering (often called Open House Parties law). Based on the specific details, negligence per se may automatically be triggered.
Obviously, personal injury laws involving alcohol consumption are tricky at best. Although an establishment may not be liable under Florida civil law, there are circumstances where they are guilty under criminal statutes. Whether you are the injured party, the person who was served the alcoholic beverage, or the establishment or host that served the alcohol, seeking the immediate advice of a qualified Florida attorney is a prudent first step. If you (or a loved one) were injured by a drunk driver, call Schackow & Mercadante to schedule a consultation to discuss the details of your personal injury claim.