Suppose you get into an accident with a driver who was driving under the
influence of alcohol and had just left a bar after drinking there all
night. What if the intoxicated driver had just left a party where alcohol
was being served? Can you sue either the bar or the party host who overserved
the clearly intoxicated person?
Dram Shop Laws
Suing a bar for overserving a person falls under what is known as a “Dram
Shop Law,” which Maryland does not explicitly have. Washington D.C.
has a law that bans the sale of alcoholic beverages to someone who is
visibly intoxicated and to anyone under the age of 21; however, it is
not a specific dram shop law. Despite this, the high court there has determined
that if a business serves someone clearly in violation of the law, then
the business can be held liable for negligence if the person then leaves
and harms someone else because he or she was drunk.
Maryland does have a law that bans the sale of liquor to people under 21
(as does every state) and to intoxicated people. The difference is that
the courts in Maryland are split on what happens if a drunk person injures
another. If the person is under 21, a business can be held responsible
for serving him or her alcoholic beverages. On the flip side, a business
cannot be sued for the mere act of serving an already drunk person.
There may be certain instances in which you might have a claim against
the bar owner; however, it will not be for the act of overserving. For
example, you and the other person happen to be at the same bar. As you
are attempting to walk downstairs, the visibly intoxicated person runs
into you, the stairs break, and you fall down. In addition to a claim
against the person who injured you, you might have a premises liability
claim against the bar owner. The intoxicated person will likely also have
a premises liability claim against the bar owner. If those stairs were
unreasonably dangerous, or defective in some way, you will have a cause
of action for damages claim against the bar owner.
A number of states have a law that allows victims to recover punitive damages
in a lawsuit that resulted from a drunk driving accident. Punitive damage
awards tend to be high to help “punish” the wrongdoer for
his or her actions. In Maryland, punitive damages exist, but the courts
have determined that the act of drunk driving is not enough to satisfy
the requirement of proving malice. Legislation has been introduced to
try and change the law. Some people oppose punitive damages, suggesting
that they are money that the victim did not “earn” or is not
entitled, whereas others feel punitive damages would help deter the high
incidence of drunk driving accidents in Maryland.
Retaining a Maryland Car Accident Attorney
If you have been in an accident with a drunk driver, you need a skilled
Maryland auto accident attorney. Contact the Law Office of Robert R. Castro today schedule a consultation
with one of our experienced
Charles County personal injury attorneys.