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When a Bar or Restaurant is Liable for Injuries or Death Caused by a Drunk Driver (Dram Shop Act)

Under the Georgia Dram Shop Act, an establishment serving alcohol (e.g., restaurant or bar) in Georgia to a patron may be liable for injuries to a victim of an accident caused by the patron, if the establishment over serves the patron.

Generally, Georgia law holds the drunk driver liable for drunk driving accidents, however, some exceptions apply. For instance, when a bar or restaurant serves a “visibly intoxicated” person. When an establishment serves a patron under these circumstances, the bar or restaurant can be liable for a subsequent drunk driving accident caused by the intoxicated patron.

Bar and restaurant employees are trained to know when a customer has consumed too much alcohol to drive safely. Some cues of intoxication include stumbling, slurring, loss of coordination, and the strong odor of alcohol. Businesses cannot over serve customers or serve customers that arrive to their establishment visibly intoxicated. If the drunk customer causes an accident because he or she is intoxicated, both the bar and/or restaurant and the “visibly intoxicated” person (drunk driver) may be liable for compensation to the victim of the accident. The compensation may include property damage, pain and suffering, medical and rehabilitation expenses, and other relevant damages authorized by Georgia dram shop liability laws.

The Georgia Dram Shop Act is codified as O.C.G.A. § 51-1-40. The law states that, "[a person or establishment] who knowingly sells, furnishes, or serves alcoholic beverages to a person who is in a state of noticeable intoxication, knowing that such person will soon be driving a motor vehicle, may become liable for injury or damage caused by or resulting from the intoxication of such ... person when the sale, furnishing, or serving is the proximate cause of such injury or damage."

It should be noted that this law does not grant the intoxicated patron does not have the right to recover damages from the provider of alcohol. While an establishment may be liable for injuries or wrongful death caused by a drunk driver overserved by the establishment, the challenge in proving these cases makes it important to work with an experienced motor vehicle accident attorney.

An experience attorney will investigate thoroughly and seek evidence (e.g., video footage, receipts, phone records, and witness statements) to prove obvious signs of intoxication were apparent to the servers of the establishment.

If you've been injured or lost a loved one in a collision caused by a drunk driver, The McPhillip Firm can help you. Call us 24 hours/7 days a week for a Free Consultation at (404) 999-5LAW.

You can also visit us online at and use our Free Case Evaluation Form.

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