According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, approximately 28 people are killed in drunk driving accidents each day in the United States. If a drunken driver has injured you or a loved one and there appears to be little or no hope of getting compensated for your injuries, there may be another payment source for your damages.
The Dram Shop Act
You may have a claim under the Connecticut Dram Shop Act, depending on the circumstances. A dram shop is a commercial establishment that sells alcoholic beverages to its patrons, such as bars, restaurants, liquor stores, and clubs. The term originates from 18th century England where “gin-shops” sold gin by the dram (or small amount). The Dram Shop Act holds these establishments liable and allows people to recover money damages for their injuries.
Dram Shop Negligence
In a Connecticut Supreme Court case, which our office argued, the Court held in Craig v. Driscoll (2003) that the dram shop act allowed for a negligence claim in addition to recovery under the dram shop statute. The Court held that a separate negligence claim could be viable under certain circumstances. However, the Connecticut legislature immediately amended the statute to prohibit a negligence cause of action against a dram shop for “negligence in the sale of alcoholic liquor to a person twenty-one years of age or older.”
Although the Dram Shop Act specifically prohibits negligence actions for conduct by the act involving serving someone age 21 or older, it may be possible to bring a civil action alleging other types of conduct not covered by the act. For example, at least one Superior Court found that a social host who is an occupier of land can be liable for the negligent service of alcohol to an adult under the common law (Piontokowski v. Agan, 2009 Conn. Super. LEXIS 1927 (2009)). While there is no binding authority, it is possible that this- and other types of conduct- could be the basis of a negligence claim.
Drunk Driving Accident Liability
The current Dram Shop Act makes a liquor seller liable to an injured third party if the seller or their employee sells liquor to an already intoxicated person. However, the act limits the damages a liquor seller must pay to injured people to $250,000, with the actual amount of liability decided in Court.
Making a Claim
To make a claim under the statute, an injured party must notify the seller of their intention to sue for damages within:
1. 120 days of the incident causing harm; or
2. 180 days of the incident causing harm in the case of death or incapacity of the injured party.
The written notice must state:
1. The time and day of the sale and to whom it was made;
2. The name and address of the injured party; and
3. The time, day, and place of injury.
Suits must be brought within one year of the sale. In addition, the act prohibits negligence actions for conduct covered by the dram shop act involving serving someone age 21 or older. (See Connecticut General Statutes section 30-102.)
If a drunk driver injured you or someone you love, it is crucial that you contact an experienced personal injury lawyer to make sure your rights are fully protected.