If you have suffered an auto accident injury at the hands of a drunk driver, you may find yourself in a position where the individual has little to no insurance to cover your damages. Is that the end of the story? Not necessarily. What about the circumstances surrounding how the driver came to be drunk behind the wheel of the car? Where did the drunk driver consume such a large amount of alcohol that left them in no state to drive a car? That is where Dram Shop Liability collides with Auto Accident Injury Cases.

What is Dram Shop Liability?

In the state of Tennessee, the law clearly states that a social host – say someone throwing a party – cannot be held liable if they provide alcohol to their guests, even if they are minors! However, Dram Shop Liability (TCA 57-10-102) indicates that a seller of alcohol, such as a bar or restaurant, can be held civilly liable if they sell alcohol to a minor or if they sell alcohol to someone who is already obviously intoxicated. If that customer goes on to cause personal injury as a direct result of being inebriated, the establishment could be sued for monetary damages by the injured party.

It goes without saying that the drunk driver is the first person responsible for an auto accident injury. Still, all too often, they do not have the appropriate level of insurance to cover the damage and harm they have caused. When that happens, the next step is to look to the establishment, which provided the alcohol. After all, is it fair for them to profit from selling alcohol to someone who is already intoxicated and then turn them loose on the rest of the population without any responsibility for their damage? The laws say no, and they can be held responsible.

When Does Dram Shop Liability Apply in an Auto Accident Injury Case?

According to Tennessee Law, there are three main ways that an alcohol seller can be held liable for an auto accident injury caused by a drunk driver. Any one of these can result in the establishment being subject to a dram shop liability case:

  • If the individual who caused the accident was already drunk and the establishment continued to serve them additional alcohol.
  • If the establishment served alcohol to a minor.
  • If the establishment served a quantity of alcohol to a person that they should have expected them to become dangerously intoxicated – even if they are not visibly drunk.

If you have experienced an auto accident injury due to a drunk driver, and you are concerned that they are not insured. In that case, it is wise to approach a personal injury lawyer who also has experience in dealing with Dram Shop Liability cases.


Butler, Vines and Babb is a leading law firm in Knoxville, TN, with extensive litigation experience in Medical Malpractice LawBirth Injury LawTrucking Accident LawPersonal Injury Law, and Business Law. Contact us today at www.bvblaw.com or call 865-637-3531.

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