Dram Shop or Social Host Liability for Georgia Drunk Driving Accidents


October 07, 2010

We have all seen the public service announcements on television where a social host takes the keys from a drunk driver and calls a taxi. Sadly, these images don't happen enough in real life as servers at bars and nightclubs, as well as social hosts, often simply serve another drink instead of taking a driver's keys.

This failure of those serving alcohol to others, either as part of their business or as a social host, contributes to over 11,773 drunk driving fatalities each year- with 415 in Georgia alone.

The importance of preventing drunk drivers from taking the road led Georgia to enact laws imposing liability on businesses (called "dram shop liability"), such as liquor stores, restaurants and bars that sell or serve alcohol, as well as social hosts who serve alcohol to their guests. A recent study found that one in every three accident fatalities involve a drunk driver. At Montlick and Associates, Georgia Accident Attorneys, we have been helping victims and their families who are seriously injured by drunk drivers for over 25 years. We know that it is important to discourage those who provide alcohol to those likely to drink and drive, and we have seen far too many alcohol related accidents that resulted in deaths.

Georgia drunk driving law treats social hosts, such as people hosting a party in their home or a club that is having a function, the same as a business that serves alcohol to customers as part of their business activity. Georgia law allows an innocent third party (someone other than the drunk driver) to bring civil claims against either a commercial vendor or social host in two limited circumstances: (1) where alcoholic beverages are sold or furnished to a person who is not of the lawful drinking age- with knowledge that the underage drinker will soon be driving a motor vehicle; or (2) where alcoholic beverages are sold or furnished to a person who is in a "state of noticeable intoxication" with knowledge that such person will soon be driving a motor vehicle. Whether the person injured is in another vehicle, a pedestrian, or a passenger in the vehicle with the drunk driver, the law allows the injured person to bring a claim against the person or business that provided the alcohol to the drunk driver.

The imposition of dram shop or social host liability does not apply if the person being served is of legal age and sober or not noticeably intoxicated. Evidence that the drunk driver was noticeably intoxicated may be based on observations of the person prior to the accident, the erratic driving of the drunk driver, as well as expert testimony. Depending on the facts and seriousness of the case, an expert may testify about what the drunk driver's behavior would have been based on the driver's blood alcohol level or amount of alcohol consumed. The Georgia appellate courts have found that all the judge or jury must find is that the defendant knew or should have known that the person was noticeably intoxicated, and that the defendant knew or should have known that the person would soon be driving a motor vehicle.

Dram shop and social host liability is an important tool in the effort to protect innocent victims from drunk drivers. At Montlick and Associates, Attorneys at Law, our Georgia dram shop liability attorneys have been assisting those suffering serious injuries in motor vehicle accidents with drunk drivers for over 25 years. We are available to assist clients throughout all of Georgia including, but not limited to, Albany, Athens, Atlanta, Augusta, Columbus, Dalton, Gainesville, Macon, Marietta, Rome, Roswell, Savannah, Smyrna, Valdosta, Warner Robins and all smaller cities and rural areas in the state. Call us today for your free consultation at 1-800-LAW-NEED (1-800-529-6333), or visit us on the web at www.montlick.com. No matter where you are located, we are just a phone call away and we will even come to you.

Category: Personal Injury

Please Note:
Many of our blog articles discuss the law. All information provided about the law is very general in nature and should not be relied upon as legal advice. Every situation is different, and should be analyzed by a lawyer who can provide individualized advice based on the facts involved in your unique situation, and a consideration of all of the nuances of the statutes and case law that apply at the time.