Colorado Dram Shop Liability Lawyers
When someone attempts to drive a motor vehicle while impaired by alcohol, he is a danger to himself and everyone around him. Colorado has strict laws regarding drunk driving, and severe penalties for those caught driving under the influence. A first-time DUI offender can lose his license for nine months, be ordered to attend alcohol education classes, be fined as much as $1,000, be required to perform up to 96 hours of community service, and be sentenced to up to a year in jail.
If you've been injured or lost a loved one because of a drunk driver, you may be glad the driver is being punished, but a criminal charge will do nothing to cover your medical bills, lost wages, and more. You need to file a civil claim against the at-fault parties. If you find yourself in such a position, contact The Bussey Law Firm, P.C. Call our Colorado Springs office for a free case evaluation at (719) 475-2555.
After being hit by a drunk driver, you will likely file a civil claim against the driver and his or her insurance provider. After all, you have the right to seek compensation for your injuries and losses from the impaired driver who caused your accident. However, that may not be enough to cover your costs. Drunk-driver collisions are often high-speed and violent, leading to severe injuries that cost thousands of dollars to treat. One driver is unlikely to have an insurance policy high enough to actually cover all of your losses. Even worse, there is always the possibility that the at-fault driver doesn’t have insurance at all, leaving you to deal with your medical bills alone.
That is where dram shop liability comes in. Colorado allows you to seek compensation from a third party under its dram shop liability law. You can file a claim against the business that sold the driver alcohol, holding that business partially responsible for your injuries.
Dram shop laws are so called because at one time, alcoholic beverages were sold in units of measurement known as drams, thus dram shop. With the advent of these laws, victims of drunk drivers could turn to the businesses that served the drivers and demand compensation. However, this law is only applicable in certain situations. Under Colorado's dram shop law, a vendor can be held liable if it sells or serves alcohol to:
- Someone who is visibly intoxicated
- Someone under the age of 21
The following is an example of how a dram shop lawsuit could work.
A patron at Joe's Bar is visibly drunk, slurring his words and stumbling around. The bartender sees this, but continues to serve the man drinks. The drunken patron leaves the bar, gets into his car, and drives off. A few blocks away, he runs a stop sign and T-bones your car. As the victim in this scenario, you could not only sue the drunk driver for your losses, you could also sue Joe's Bar for serving an obviously drunk patron who later injured you.
Dram shop liability is not the only thing you should know about if you were hit by a drunk driver. Colorado also has host liability laws, which apply in non-commercial situations; the host of a party could also be liable for your injuries if he or she served someone under the age of 21. Party hosts are not responsible if they serve someone already clearly intoxicated, so long as that person is of legal drinking age.
For example, suppose Courtney is having a party where alcohol is being served. Rebecca, an adult, attends the party, bringing along her 18-year-old son, Scott. Rebecca drinks too much and is visibly intoxicated, yet Courtney keeps serving her cocktails. If Rebecca gets behind the wheel of her car, runs a red light, and crashes into you, you cannot sue Courtney for overserving Rebecca. However, if Courtney served Scott any alcohol at all, and he was the one driving, you could sue Courtney because Scott was not of legal drinking age.
Dram shop lawsuits are slightly different from normal personal injury claims. You can sue for the same damages in a dram shop case as you can in a regular personal injury or wrongful death case (medical bills, pain and suffering, funeral costs, loss of income, etc.), but Colorado has placed a limit, or cap, on the total amount of compensation you can be awarded in a settlement or verdict. That limit is currently $150,000.
The time period in which you can file a dram shop claim is also different. The Colorado statute of limitations for personal injury claims is two years from the date of your injury, and for motor vehicle accidents, it is three years from the date of the accident. However, the statute of limitations for filing a dram shop claim is only one year. For this reason, it is important to speak to a skilled attorney as soon as possible after your accident.
The Bussey Law Firm, P.C., has helped many Colorado residents get the compensation they deserve following a serious injury. Let us do the same for you by calling (719) 475-2555 to schedule a free consultation.
As car accident attorneys, The Bussey Law Firm, P.C., has helped many Colorado residents get the compensation they deserve following a serious injury. Let us do the same for you by calling (719) 475-2555. If you feel our firm is the right one for your case, give us a call. We will not stop fighting for your rights until you get the settlement you deserve. As a bonus, we offer free consultations to all potential clients.