Boulder Dram Shop LawyersLast updated on: July 31, 2022
CALL (800) 863-5312 to talk with Boulder Dram Shop lawyers near you
Anyone who’s spent time at a bar has seen patrons who are being overserved. Bartenders often notice these customers and refuse to serve them. But on some occasions, bartenders continue to serve alcohol to patrons despite noticing that they’re already drunk. When an injury occurs because of irresponsible service, the Boulder dram shop lawyers from Zinda Law Group are here to help.
If the person who caused your injuries was irresponsibly served alcohol, call Zinda Law Group at (800) 863-5312. The person that injured you may not be the only one responsible for your injuries. You can discuss your case with our staff and receive a 100% free case evaluation by calling our Boulder dram shop lawyers today.
What is dram shop liability?
Dram shop liability refers to the responsibility establishments have for injuries caused by an intoxicated patron that was overserved. The typical plaintiff in a dram shop liability case is a commercial establishment that serves alcohol. For example, bars, taverns, and restaurants are often plaintiffs in dram shop liability cases.
The term “dram shop” comes from an old English name for vendors who sold gin by the “dram” (spoonful) in the 18th century. Today the term “dram shop” is still used to describe establishments where alcoholic beverages are sold. At common law, bar liability for alcohol injuries was not a recognized concept.
The reason that dram shop liability exists is to compensate victims of alcohol-related accidents. Over time, enough people had asked, “Can I sue a bar to recover for my injuries?” that each state legislature decided whether they were going to pass their own dram shop laws. Colorado state law gives victims the opportunity to make a financial recovery against establishments that negligently served the people who caused their injuries.
Boulder Dram Shop Laws
Section 44-3-801 of the Colorado Revised Statutes imposes civil liability against alcohol vendors who willfully and knowingly sold or served any alcohol to a person under the age of twenty-one years or who is visibly intoxicated. Most jurisdictions limit dram shop liability to commercial establishments; however, Colorado’s statute also extends liability to social hosts in some circumstances as well.
Social Host Liability for Alcohol Injuries
It’s not uncommon for teenagers and young adults to drink alcohol. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), nearly 25% of minors ages fourteen to fifteen years old reported having at least one drink in 2019. With binge drinking being a concern for the NIAAA, you may be asking yourself, “How are the people who provide alcohol to minors being held responsible?”
Although liability is not attributable to social hosts whose guests are over the age of twenty-one, the Boulder dram shop laws do attribute liability to social hosts who serve alcohol to underage drinkers. Summarily, social hosts can be held responsible via dram shop liability when the social host knowingly serves alcohol to an underage person or provides the underage person a place to consume alcohol.
Bar Liability for Alcohol Injuries
For licensed establishments that sell or serve alcohol, even a single instance of serving someone underage or overserving an intoxicated person can be extremely costly. For example, bars that contribute to the excessive consumption of alcohol and/or service to minors often face pricey lawsuits, bad press, and the loss of business. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that, in fact, excessive consumption of alcohol costs the US economy close to $250 billion per year.
Businesses that sell alcohol have a conflict of interest because they must sell their products to turn a profit, but they must also refrain from selling their products at times to prevent excessive and underage drinking. On one hand, restaurant revenue from beer and spirits sales was over $64 billion in 2019. On the other hand, alcohol is notoriously associated with poor choices and injurious actions such as drunk driving, which can be expensive not only for the offender but also for the business that sold her alcohol.
If you were injured by a drunk driver, you may have a viable dram shop injury claim against the establishment that served the intoxicated person. If you’d like to discuss bar liability for drunk driving with a Boulder drunk driving accident attorney, call Zinda Law Group at (800) 863-5312.
Establishing Dram Shop Liability
To establish dram shop liability, you must show that the bartender or social host knowingly neglected their duty to refrain from irresponsibly serving alcohol, and their irresponsibility was the cause of your injuries. In these types of cases, the most contentious point is usually demonstrating knowledge. In practice, this requirement amounts to requiring the plaintiff to show that the defendant knew or had reason to know that the person they were serving was already intoxicated or a person underage.
There are two ways that the vendor could have known that the person that they were serving was intoxicated or underage:
- Actual knowledge is the direct knowledge that the vendor or social host has, such as their awareness of the customer’s age because they asked for his ID.
- Constructive knowledge is the knowledge that the vendor or social host should have, such as their awareness that something is likely to be because of other factors; for example, a bartender could know that a patron is underage if the patron looks especially young and winces when they drink.
However, demonstrating the vendor’s knowledge is only one part of building a complete dram shop liability case. In total, you will need to prove that:
- Your injuries were caused by the reckless/negligent actions of the intoxicated patron.
- The patron was either visibly intoxicated or underage.
- The vendor knowingly and willfully served alcohol to that person.
- You suffered damages as a result.
Evidence in Dram Shop Liability Cases
Certain pieces of evidence are critical to establishing dram shop liability. Colorado’s dram shop statute provides that the plaintiff has the burden of proof in establishing a prima facie dram shop liability case. To bring a dram shop liability case, you would need to produce direct and circumstantial evidence that establishes your standing as a dram shop liability plaintiff.
Direct evidence is a type of evidence that proves an essential fact. In dram shop liability cases, direct evidence often includes:
- Surveillance footage
- Receipts of sale
Circumstantial evidence is a type of evidence that does not directly prove an essential fact. In dram shop liability cases, circumstantial evidence often includes:
- Official police reports
- Testimony that the tortfeasor had alcohol on their breath
These pieces of evidence are used to verify that all factual allegations are true, allowing for them to be leveraged against the defendant to establish dram shop liability.
How to file a dram shop liability claim
After an accident is caused by an intoxicated person, determining where they drank the alcohol and whom they got it from is the first step in your dram shop liability lawsuit. Only after you’ve determined who served the alcohol can you file a dram shop liability claim. People who are ready to file a dram shop liability claim ordinarily take the following steps:
1. Contact an Attorney
As with most personal injury cases, it is wise to contact an attorney to handle your legal claims. An experienced attorney can use their experience with dram shop liability lawsuits to analyze the viability of your claim and help develop a legal strategy. Additionally, legal counsel can help you by:
- Drafting pleadings
- Conducting legal research
- Complying with deadlines
- Advocating on your behalf
- Communicating with other parties
Even though many minor personal injury claims can be resolved without legal counsel, some cases are more complicated than others. This is especially true in dram shop liability cases because there are multiple parties involved, and it is often difficult to track down evidence.
To understand the accident and learn about your injuries, our Boulder dram shop lawyers would first interview you and try to establish the facts from your perspective. Depending on the facts of your case, a lawyer would then examine any evidence that you have and potentially do an on-scene investigation, as well as contact the other involved parties. Once the claim is filed, the investigation process is usually separated into two parts:
- Fact Investigation – the starting point for most personal injury claims. The goal here is to collect information that supports the client’s claims.
- Liability Investigation – entails gathering information that supports the client’s claims, but at this stage the attorney is trying to build a legal case and find the pieces of evidence that can establish elements described in the statute.
Before a settlement can be reached or a case can be tried, a lawyer must be knowledgeable about how the accident occurred and what pieces of evidence they will use to solidify the record. At each stage of the litigation process, the facts and the law serve as a guide for the court. Experienced litigation attorneys apply the facts to the law, but they also gather information and evidence to support those facts.
3. Draft the Claim
During the investigation, the attorney will develop a better idea about the viability of your claims. If your injury attorney feels that you have a chance to make a financial recovery after examining the facts and supporting evidence, they will draft a claim on your behalf and file it with the court. Here, the attorney can use their legal writing skills to show that your claim fulfills the Colorado’s dram shop statute requirements.
Settlement negotiation in dram shop liability cases offers many advantages to both parties. While our trial lawyers might feel that you have a strong chance of a judge and jury siding with you, we know that there is much to consider before commencing litigation. For example, if your goal is to resolve your claim as fast as possible, negotiating a fair settlement may be the best legal option for you.
5. Go to Trial
When settlement negotiations are unfruitful, your case may be taken to trial for you to receive just compensation. These situations typically arise where defendants won’t negotiate a settlement in good faith or agree to a settlement and refuse to pay. For example, if you were injured by a drunk driver and the bar who served her refuses to release evidence of her being there, a Boulder drunk driving accident lawyer might suggest that you go to trial.
If you go to trial, connections will need to be made between the relevant facts and the pieces of evidence that prove those facts in front of a judge and jury. At trial, the expertise of a Boulder drunk driving accident attorney from Zinda Law Group is invaluable because our attorneys are comfortable in the courtroom and thoroughly trained in strategic trial planning.
To speak with one of our experienced dram shop liability laws for free, call (800) 863-5312 today.
What Damages may I be entitled to?
Dram shop liability awards are the same as awards for any successful personal injury claim. A successful claimant is likely to receive:
- Medical Expenses to cover costs related to medical treatment for your injuries, including the cost of doctor’s visits, physical therapy, ambulance rides, and costs of traveling for medical reasons.
- Property Damages to cover the cost of repairing damaged property. For example, if your car was totaled by a drunk driver, you can seek compensation to cover repairing or replacing the vehicle.
- Lost Wages to cover the amount of money that you lose when you are forced to miss work due to your injury.
- Pain and Suffering tries to quantify and compensate for the cost of mental and emotional anguish as a result of being injured.
- Punitive Damages are only awarded in cases where the defendant’s actions were particularly egregious. For example, if a bartender went beyond serving an intoxicated person to helping them get behind the wheel of a car, such conduct might be considered particularly egregious. However, it is important to note that punitive damages are rarely awarded, and the court is never required to give them.
Additionally, it’s important to note that Boulder Dram Shop laws put a cap on the number of damages that you can receive. Under the statute, your recovery is limited to $150,000. However, the amount that you can recover is highly case-specific.
Statute of Limitations
Under Boulder dram shop laws, the injured victim must commence a civil action within one year of the sale or service of alcohol. Most jurisdictions require that claims must be filed within two years of the injury, so it might be surprising that you have a much shorter window to file a claim in Colorado. Because the clock starts running from the date of sale/service, and you only have one year to file, we encourage all victims to be diligent with filing their claims.
Speak with Boulder dram shop lawyers for free today
We have seen the devastation that can result from a person’s choice to irresponsibly serve alcohol, and we want to be here for you. You can call us at (800) 863-5312 and a member of our team can help schedule a 100% free case evaluation. Even further, we offer a No Win, No Fee Guarantee, which means that you will pay nothing unless we achieve a favorable settlement, judgment, or verdict for your case.
Meetings with attorneys are available by appointment only.