Dram Shop Liability Lawyers in Fort CollinsLast updated on: August 8, 2022
CALL (800) 863-5312 TO SPEAK WITH FORT COLLINS DRAM SHOP LIABILITY LAWYERS FOR FREE
Everyone knows it is extremely hazardous to operate a motor vehicle while impaired or under the influence of drugs or alcohol. When individuals disregard the risk and cause alcohol-related accidents, blame certainly rests on the intoxicated party. However, under Colorado law, Fort Collins dram shop liability lawyers can help you seek compensation from the other parties liable for the accident.
Dram shop and social host liability laws afford Colorado accident victims the opportunity to seek financial compensation from all parties to blame. Recovery can come not only from legal action against the intoxicated party, but also from a separate action against the vendor that furnished the alcohol to the intoxicated individual.
If you or a loved one were involved in an alcohol-related accident in the Fort Collins area, call Zinda Law Group at (800) 863-5312. Ask for a free consultation with an experienced Fort Collins dram shop liability attorney today.
Fort Collins DRAM SHOP LAWS
Accident liability may be imposed on commercial establishments as well as individual, private citizens. Although most states have adopted dram shop liability laws, the law itself varies by state. In Colorado, the test for proving dram shop liability is considerably more difficult than in other states, which is why it is imperative to seek the advice of experienced dram shop liability attorneys.
Colorado’s Dram Shop Act, found in Section 44-3-801 of the Colorado Revised Statutes, provides that commercial, licensed alcohol vendors—such as bars, restaurants, and liquor stores—may be held civilly liable in the event of a drunk driving auto accident, or in the event of other alcohol related-accidents. Specifically, civil liability may arise when a vendor willfully and knowingly sells or serves alcohol to an individual who is visibly intoxicated, or to a person who is under the age of 21, and that individual subsequently causes an accident that results in injury, death, or property damage.
Bar Liability for Alcohol Injuries and More
For example, if a restaurant’s bartender or waiter continued to serve alcoholic beverages to a customer despite clearly observing the customer falling out of his chair and slurring his words, the restaurant may be subject to dram shop liability if the customer causes subsequent property damage or bodily injury to another. Furthermore, had the customer been under 21 years of age, an injured party could bring a civil claim against the restaurant, regardless of whether the server could determine whether the underaged customer was intoxicated or not.
It is important to note that dram shop laws in Colorado do not solely relate to drunk driving auto accidents. A dram shop may also be found vicariously liable for alcohol-related assaults, sex crimes, acts of violence, property damage, vandalism, and other crimes or acts of negligence committed by intoxicated persons.
Actual Versus Constructive Knowledge
As discussed above, to prevail on a claim of dram shop or social host liability, a plaintiff must demonstrate that a vendor acted willfully and knowingly. A preponderance of the evidence (i.e., it is the case more likely than not) must show that the vendor possessed knowledge of a customer’s inebriated state. The evidence must demonstrate the vendor had either actual or constructive knowledge.
Actual knowledge requires that an individual knew about a given event or condition. This knowledge must be proven via direct (eyewitness testimony) or circumstantial evidence, as discussed in greater detail below.
For instance, consider a bartender who testifies that he was aware a customer named Joe was intoxicated. The bartender had actual knowledge of Joe’s inebriated state. If the bartender continued serving Joe alcoholic beverages, he may be liable for harm caused by Joe while he was drunk.
On the other hand, constructive knowledge refers to when an individual is presumed to have known about a given condition simply because a person exercising reasonable diligence should and would have known it to be the case. For example, if a bartender observed a boisterous customer named Jane had an exorbitant amount of empty beer bottles in front of her, but chose not to inquire about Jane’s condition, the bartender can be said to have had constructive knowledge of Jane’s inebriated state.
These standards may also apply to a social host who furnishes alcoholic beverages to a guest. If they should have known through ordinary diligence that the guest was not of legal age, they can be held liable for harm caused by that intoxicated minor.
Proving that a dram shop was partially at fault for your injuries and/or damages can be complicated. In the absence of direct eyewitness testimony, you must often rely on circumstantial evidence to support your claim. Therefore, following any alcohol-related accident, consider gathering information from and about the vendor who sold or served the alcohol.
Gather as much of this information as you can before you call a Fort Collins drunk driving accident lawyer:
- Police statements and reports
- Bar records
- Surveillance footage to show how many drinks were consumed and how long the intoxicated individual spent at the establishment
- Receipts or records of credit card charges to show how many drinks were purchased
- Other photo or video sources, including cell phones or social media posts
- Employee work schedules
- Employee training records
- Breathalyzer results
- Eyewitness accounts
To locate prospective eyewitnesses, you will also want to note the names of employees, customers, or other third-party witnesses who observed the alcohol being served and/or consumed. This witness testimony can be extremely helpful in supporting your claim. Testimony can aid in determining whether a customer was obviously, visibly, or apparently intoxicated, such that the vendor knew or should have known the party was intoxicated and liability may be imposed.
Courts look for these key indicators of intoxication:
- bloodshot eyes
- slurred speech
- a stench of alcohol
- unsteady posture
- drooping eyelids
- loss of coordination
- large amounts of alcohol served
Gathering all of this information can be tedious, time-consuming, and frustrating. A Fort Collins dram shop liability lawyer can help you get the things you’re having difficulty securing. But the more you can bring with you when you first meet, the better, because there isn’t much time.
Time Limits in Dram Shop Cases
For every type of personal injury claim, there is an associated statute of limitations provided by state law. This refers to the amount of time a victim has to file a legal claim based on a given accident. Typically, the clock will begin to run when the accident occurs.
To comply with Colorado’s statute of limitations, it is important to note that dram shop and social host liability actions must be filed within one year of the date the alcohol was sold or served. This means that you must file your claim no later than one year after the alcohol-related accident, or your claim will be forever barred once that timeframe has expired.
However, certain circumstances could alter the above rule regarding the statute of limitations. For instance, if a victim was a minor at the time of the accident, additional time may be permitted to file a legal claim. This may also be true if a victim’s injury was not apparent until long after an accident and/or was undiscoverable at an earlier point in time. To be sure that your claim is timely, call a Fort Collins dram shop liability lawyer as soon as possible.
Types of Compensation You May Be Entitled To
In Colorado, damages in dram shop and social host liability cases are capped at, or limited to, a total of $150,000 plus interest. These damages consist of both economic (i.e., monetary losses) and non-economic (i.e., non-monetary losses) compensatory damages, which include the following:
- Lost wages
- Lost earning capacity
- Home and vehicle modifications
- Property repairs
- Sexual dysfunction
- Mental anguish
- Scarring and disfigurement
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Pain and suffering
Although most successful claims yield only compensatory damages such as those listed above, victims of a drunk driving auto accident may also be entitled to punitive damages. Punitive damages are a means of punishing the defendant for their wrongdoing while also deterring the defendant and others from engaging in similar hazardous conduct in the future.
SOCIAL HOST LIABILITY
In addition to commercial dram shop laws, some states, such as Colorado, extend similar liability to private citizens, known as a “social host liability.” A social host refers to an individual who does not possess a license to sell alcohol but serves alcohol to others in a noncommercial setting, such as at a house party or backyard barbeque. The standard of liability is generally lower for social hosts than it is for commercial, licensed vendors.
In Colorado, social hosts can never be liable for damages caused by someone who is over 21 years of age, even if the individual was visibly intoxicated and the social host was aware of the guest’s inebriated state. On the other hand, if a social host knowingly serves alcohol to an underage individual or provided a place for the underaged person to consume alcohol, the host may be held liable for damages in a subsequent alcohol-related accident caused by that person.
MAKING A DRAM SHOP CLAIM
To make a dram shop or social host liability claim, consider taking the following steps:
1. Consult an Attorney
You should consult a Fort Collins dram shop liability attorney as soon as possible after being involved in a drunk arriving or other alcohol-related accident. Zinda Law Group’s dram shop attorneys can answer your questions, like, “Can I sue a bar?” and “What should I do next?”
An experienced attorney is familiar with the applicable laws when it comes to determining a bar’s liability for drunk driving. Zinda Law Group personal liability lawyers can help you determine what the best course of action would be if you choose to seek financial compensation.
2. Collect Evidence
If you have been injured by someone under the influence of alcohol, you should first determine where the intoxicated individual obtained or was served the alcohol. After identifying the vendor, begin gathering circumstantial evidence, like surveillance footage from the establishment and identify prospective eyewitnesses who observed the incident in question.
3. File A Dram Shop Claim
Once your attorney has collected evidence, they may file a lawsuit on your behalf against the establishment or the social host. Once this suit is filed, you and your attorney will enter the discovery phase of the lawsuit. This phase of civil litigation is when parties obtain information via interrogatories and collect evidence from one another, gathering additional evidence to support each party’s claim.
Once your suit is filed, your attorney may suggest you consider negotiating a settlement. If you consent, the attorney would begin by first presenting your demand, although initial demands are usually rejected. The other party or their insurer may present a counteroffer.
Negotiations often go back and forth until both parties agree on a settlement amount. In the event that a settlement is reached, the case will conclude and not proceed to trial.
If a settlement cannot be agreed upon, the case may proceed to trial. In a trial, the jury will determine the amount of compensation to be paid, as well as the proportion of liability on the part of the commercial establishment or social host. For instance, if a jury were to find that a social host was 80% at fault, the host would have to pay 80% of the total awarded damages. That is, if $100,000 was awarded by the jury, the social host would be liable for $80,000.
GET HELP FROM FORT COLLINS DRUNK DRIVING ACCIDENT LAWYERS
If you have been injured by a drunk driver or anyone under the influence of alcohol, you may be entitled to financial compensation. At Zinda Law Group, our dram shop liability lawyers have provided counsel to many victims of alcohol-related accidents, and their loved ones, throughout Colorado. We are keenly aware of the legal nuances involved, as well as the emotional support necessary, to aid accident victims and their families in recovering maximum compensation.
Our firm believes that an alcohol-related accident victim should not have to worry about their ability to afford high-quality legal representation. That is why we offer 100% free initial consultations to all of our clients.
In addition, Zinda Law Group operates on a contingency fee basis, meaning you will pay nothing unless we achieve a favorable settlement, judgment, or verdict for your personal injury claim. That is our No Win, No Fee Guarantee.
If you or a loved one has been involved in an alcohol-related Fort Collins accident, call Zinda Law Group at (800) 863-5312 to receive your free consultation with an experienced Fort Collins dram shop liability attorney.
Meetings with attorneys are available by appointment only.