Dram Shop and Liquor Liability

Charleston Liquor Liability Lawyers

Dram shop and liquor liability laws mean that if someone buys alcohol, leaves the premises, and causes injury, property damage, or death, the owner of the location where the drink was served can be held accountable. The "dram shop" laws were first enacted in the 18th century when alcohol was measured in drams. A dram shop described any establishment where liquor was sold, including taverns and pubs.

If you or someone you know was injured by an intoxicated driver who was served in a liquor establishment in Charleston, contact the law office of Lesemann & Associates to establish whether you have a dram shop claim against the store. At Lesemann & Associates, we serve individuals, social clubs, and liquor establishment owners in cases arising from injuries or accidents involving over-service of liquor to intoxicated people.

Charleston Dram Shop Liability

In the U.S, each state enacts a statute that holds businesses liable in some circumstances based on the applicable law in the state. However, these laws vary from one state to another. Some states even restrict dram shop liability by imposing statute limitations, limiting the compensation amount pursued in lawsuits, and increasing the evidence required to prove liability. 

Dram shop laws aim to prevent liquor establishments from intentionally serving alcohol to intoxicated individuals and minors. While South California does not have a specific "dram shop Act," the state Supreme Court has always handled dram shop liability claims using the criminal statutes (S.C. Code Ann. § 61-4-580) that regulate lawful alcohol sales.

In Charleston, an establishment with an alcohol license is prohibited from serving alcoholic drinks to intoxicated persons and someone aged 21 years and below. Liquor license holders who violate this order can be held partially or fully liable for harm and damages caused by an underage or drunk driver who was served. To successfully launch a dram shop action in Charleston, you must apply the criminal statutes regulating alcohol control and prove that an establishment intentionally served liquor to a drunk driver. 

Liquor establishments in South Carolina must have not less than one million dollars of liability insurance to settle a dram shop claim. Ideally, you could obtain compensation from two parties: any establishment that sold alcohol to the driver that caused your accident and the intoxicated driver's insurer. If you need help pursuing compensation for your damages, we can help. Our Charleston liquor liability lawyers are well versed in the laws governing dram shops and experienced in representing individuals in cases concerning the service of alcohol.

What Types of Businesses May be Held Liable Under Dram Shop Laws?

In South Carolina, any establishment knowingly over-serving someone intoxicated or an alcohol purchaser under the age of 21, who then causes an accident, may be held liable for damages. Different businesses can be held responsible under shop laws as long as they have a liquor license. These include:

  • Bars & Restaurants
  • Liquor stores
  • Convenience stores
  • Taverns
  • Night clubs

Proving Liability in a Dram Shop Case

Dram shop liability is a complex part of the law that presents unique challenges both from the legal and practical perspectives. These cases usually involve dynamic aspects of the law and require lawyers experienced in navigating the dram shop law. Our liquor liability lawyers have extensive knowledge and experience in dram law and can help gather the necessary evidence to prove your dram shop claim in Charleston.

To prove a dram shop legal action against a liquor establishment for harm or damages suffered in a DUI accident, you must demonstrate that:

  • The alcohol or liquor consumed by the intoxicated driver was the definite cause of your collision or injuries. One of the easiest ways to establish a proximate cause is using the driver's conviction for driving under the influence (DUI) of liquor. Police officers at the crash scene should conduct tests to establish the intoxicated driver's BAC (blood alcohol content). A person with a BAC of 0.08% or above is considered intoxicated and can be charged with a DUI offense. Anyone with a BAC ranging between 0.05 percent and 0.08 percent might still be charged with a DUI using other forms of evidence.
  • The liquor store, restaurant, bar, or other establishment staff breached the following duties:
  1. Identify intoxicated customers
  2. Ask for ID to prove legal age before serving or selling alcohol to customers.
  3. Refuse to serve liquor to underage or intoxicated persons. 
  4. Find alternative transportation for intoxicated customers
  • The place that sold or served alcohol to the intoxicated or underage driver knew or should have reasonably known that the alcohol purchaser was underage or drunk. Intoxication can be established by observing the drunk driver's behavior: staggering, passing out, or allured speech. Legal age could be determined by demanding an official ID.

The Role of a Charleston Liquor Liability Attorney

Filing a dram shop case in Charleston can be a complex process that requires the knowledge of an experienced lawyer. You may also need time to treat your injuries to restore your "normal life." Let the Charleston liquor liability attorneys at Lesemann & Associates handle all the aspects of your case, including negotiating with insurance companies and filing a lawsuit against the at-fault driver. Our attorneys will help:

  • Gather and analyze all evidence, including police reports, witness statements, medical reports, video footage, receipts, and security camera footage.
  • Negotiate with different insurance companies and their adjusters
  • Launch a legal action and take the case to trial if necessary
  • Provide legal guidance and support throughout the dram shop litigation process

Contact Us Today! 

If you have been injured in a Charleston accident caused by an intoxicated driver, contact us at (843) 724-5155 to book an appointment. Our Charleston liquor liability lawyers are equipped to provide you with the best counsel to ensure you obtain favorable results. Our leading attorney, Ellis Lesemann, can listen to your story, investigate your case, and help you establish your legal options.

Dram Shop and Liquor Liability FAQ

Are There Limitations On The Compensation I Can Pursue In A Dram Shop Case?

Dram shop and liquor liability guidelines in South Carolina mandate that alcohol-serving establishments be held responsible for injuries and damages that their over-served guests sustain or cause to other parties.

However, there are limitations on the compensation you can pursue in a dram shop case. The law limits damages that can be sought based on some elements, including comparative negligence and statutory cap, which is the amount of money that can be awarded in a dram shop case.

At Lesemann & Associates, we have experience handling dram shop laws in South Carolina and can help you understand the specific limitations that may apply to your case.

What Role Does The Establishment’s Liquor License Play in a Dram Shop Case?

Businesses that sell alcohol in South Carolina are required to carry liquor liability insurance. This policy provides coverage for settlements, medical costs, and legal fees related to property damage or bodily injury due to an intoxicated individual for whom the policyholder served alcohol.

In a dram shop case, a liquor license signifies that an establishment is legally permitted to serve and sell alcoholic beverages. This also means that the business owners can be held responsible for injuries or damages caused by their negligence.

Also, a liquor license can serve as evidence to establish the store’s knowledge and training in responsible alcohol service. If the establishment violated laws, such as selling alcohol to a minor or overly intoxicated person, the liquor license can be used to prove their negligence in abiding by the law.

What Damages Can I Seek in a Dram Shop Liability Case? 

If you are pursuing an alcohol-related case in South Carolina, there are various damages you can recover. These include:

  • Medical expenses, such as hospital bills, medication, therapy, and rehabilitation
  • Lost wages
  • Property damage
  • Pain and suffering
  • Diminishing earning capacity

What Is The Statute of Limitations for Initiating a Dram Shop Case in South Carolina?

The time limit for filing a dram shop case in South Carolina is generally three years. This means you have three years after the incident to launch a compensation claim against the establishment for over-serving alcohol.

What Are The Potential Challenges in Pursuing a Dram Shop Case?

When pursuing a dram shop case, you may face a number of challenges, including:

  • Complex legal and procedural requirements
  • Establishing a direct link between the over-service of alcohol and the injury 
  • The defendant may argue that the injured party was partially responsible for their injury
  • Proof of intoxication
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