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How liable is a bar after a drunk driving accident?

In many bars, it’s common practice for servers and bartenders to cut off patrons when they appear to have had too much to drink. Oftentimes done out of safety for the patron as well as other patrons, one of the main motives behind doing this is to prevent the patron from driving while intoxicated and potentially causing an accident.

Now, imagine for a moment that you are a patron at a bar. You think you are fine to drive and decide to get behind the wheel. Suddenly though, you find yourself involved in a serious accident that has injured the other driver. If you’re like most people, a scenario such as this might leave you rather upset or angry, particularly at the bar that served you. Shouldn’t they have been able to tell that you were too intoxicated to drive safely?

So the question then becomes: how liable is this bar is the injured driver decides to sue you? In Virginia, the answer is that it’s not. This is because of our state’s dram shop laws or, more specifically, the absence of such laws. Let’s take a look.

As some of our more frequent readers may remember us mentioning in an early October post regarding the new Taco Bell Cantina restaurants, Virginia does not have any dram shop laws. For those who don’t know, dram shop laws allow a bar or restaurant to share liability in a drunk driving accident because these establishments should know better than to continue serving clearly intoxicated patrons. In a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit, both the at-fault driver and the bar or restaurant could then be held liable for damages.

Because Virginia does not have these laws, though, liability falls directly on the shoulders of an intoxicated driver. This can create particularly complex and challenging legal situations as the driver may not only be facing criminal DUI charges, but a civil action as well. As with any criminal case, Virginians in situations such as the one we have just been talking about should consult with a knowledgeable and experienced criminal defense attorney. Not only can an attorney protect an individual’s rights during criminal proceedings, they can also help with civil proceedings as well.

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