Dram Shop and Social Host Liability in Georgia

Martini glasses sitting on a bar representing dram shop laws in Georgia

When you or a loved one is harmed by a drunk driver in Georgia, a wrongful death or personal injury lawsuit is an understandable and justified course of action. A legal claim can earn you compensation for the medical bills and other expenses, as well as provide a feeling that some justice has been earned for you and your family.

In order to earn the maximum compensation from your personal injury or wrongful death claim, it’s important that you consult with a Georgia personal injury lawyer. In these drunk driving related accidents, including those where a pedestrian was hit, you may be able to attach liability to more than just the driver of the vehicle. Georgia maintains dram shop and social host liability laws in order to place fault on the establishment and/or server that provided the alcoholic beverages.

What Liability is Created with Georgia’s Dram Shop Act?

Georgia’s Dram Shop Act, O.C.G.A. 51-1-40 (2010), allows victims of drunk driving accidents to assign liability to the third party responsible for providing alcohol to the driver. The law is specific in that this third party liability requires more than just merely being a venue that serves alcohol.
The law imposes a duty on the alcohol provider, either the owner or the establishment or the server, to observe the recipients of alcohol. Alcohol must never be served to anyone who:

  1. Appears “noticeably” intoxicated, or
  2. Appears to be underage—even if an ID is provided, and
  3. Appears to be intending to operate a motor vehicle

If alcohol is “willingly,” “knowingly,” or “unlawfully” served to drivers who satisfy the two elements of the law, dram shop or social host liability may be imposed in Georgia wrongful death or personal injury lawsuits.

What is the Difference Between Dram Shop Liability and Social Host Liability in Georgia?

In most aspects, dram shop liability and social host liability are established by nearly the same criteria as what is outlined in Georgia’s Dram Shop Act. The primary difference, however, is the location in which the alcohol is served.

Social host liability typically pertains to private dwellings or private events. Thus, a host of a party may be held liable for a drunk driving accident if they served alcohol to a minor or a noticeably intoxicated person knowing he or she was likely to drive. If the host tried to prevent the driver from getting behind the wheel or took any other decisive act to prevent the accident, liability may be avoided.

Dram shop liability pertains more to private businesses and often falls under the umbrella of vicarious liability. Thus, if a bartender serves alcohol to an obviously intoxicated person who intends to drive, the owner of the bar could face liability.

The Importance of a Personal Injury or Wrongful Death Lawyer in Dram Shop Claims

By adding another defendant to your lawsuit, the case becomes more intricate. Not only will you need to prove that the driver is at fault, you also need to present direct or circumstantial evidence that Georgia’s Dram Shop Act was violated. An experienced Georgia personal injury lawyer, like the attorneys at Banks Stubbs and McFarland, LLP, understand the nuances of these claims and will fight to earn you the compensation you deserve.

Though the statute of limitations for these claims is typically 2 years, certain accidents may toll in as little as 6 months. Don’t risk the clock running out on your claim and contact our firm today. Call 770-887-1209 or complete our contact form online.