Every year thousands of plaintiffs are injured at bars, restaurants, and other establishments where alcohol is served, or by patrons served in those establishments. Whether you are injured in a bar fight, motor vehicle accident with an intoxicated patron of a drinking establishment, or otherwise, it is crucial to understand the options available for recovery. If you find yourself in such a position, two commonly available actions may be available:
1. Illinois’ Dram Shop Act
“Dram Shop” laws, as they are commonly known, are statutes in many states allowing an injured party to sue a bar, restaurant, or other establishment where alcohol is served for injuries caused by intoxicated persons to whom those establishments have served alcohol. A majority of states provide for such actions, though they vary in their language and provisions.
Under Illinois’ Liquor Control Act of 1934 (also known as the “Dram Shop Act”), a vendor selling alcohol may be held liable for injuries caused by an intoxicated patron IF:
- The vendor sold alcohol to the individual in question
- That alcohol caused or materially contributed to the person’s intoxication, and
- The intoxication was the proximate cause of the plaintiff’s injuries
2. Bar Negligence Actions
A plaintiff may also sue an establishment where alcohol is served for negligence arising out of an injury caused by a patron in a bar. Under Illinois law, a plaintiff may have a claim when the owner of such an establishment negligently allows an intoxicated, or otherwise dangerous, person to remain in his or her establishment. However, a negligence action includes a more rigorous standard of proof to recover a judgment than a Dram Shop case.
Comparing the Two:
Whereas in a Dram action a plaintiff need only prove an intoxicated patron caused him injury, a negligence action requires proof that the bartender had a specific duty to protect the plaintiff, that the bar owner breached that duty, and that such breach actually and proximately caused the plaintiff’s injuries. There is a benefit to this higher standard of proof, though. In a Dram shop action, the amount of money available for a plaintiff recovered is capped by law, based on the consumer price index as calculated by the U.S. Department of Labor. That cap is recalculated every year, but generally remains well under $100,000.00 per person (injuries occurring in 2019, for instance, are capped at $85,666.89). This means that regardless of the severity of a plaintiff’s injuries, the MAXIMUM amount recoverable in a Dram action is dictated by this annual cap. However, damages in a negligence action are NOT capped at all; a jury may return a verdict for any amount it sees fit in this case. It is important to note that a plaintiff may bring BOTH of these actions simultaneously, if both actions apply.
If you or a loved one has sustained injuries due to an intoxicated patron in a bar or other establishment where alcohol is served, you may be eligible to pursue compensation. The lawyers at Steigmann Law, P.C., can discuss your case with you and help determine the recovery options available.