Can I Sue a Bar for a Drunk Driver’s Negligence?

Published on May 12, 2023 at 8:50 pm in Car Accidents.

Can I Sue a Bar for a Drunk Driver's Negligence?

If you were injured or lost a loved one in a car accident caused by a drunk driver, your first course of legal action is usually to file a lawsuit directly against the driver. For several reasons we will discuss below, it may also be appropriate and valuable to file an injury claim against the party that supplied the alcohol that intoxicated the drunk driver.

This type of third-party liability falls under the category of dram shop claims. These are complicated legal cases that should only be handled with the help of an attorney experienced in this area. We encourage you to schedule a free case evaluation at Prince Law Firm to learn more about filing a dram shop claim in Illinois. We can help answer questions like “Can I sue a bar for a drunk driver’s negligence?” and “Is a bar liable for overserving a customer?”

In the article below, we provide information that can give you a better understanding of the legal options in Illinois for those injured by a drunk driver’s negligence. Please bring specific questions about your own case to your free consultation at Prince Law Firm.

Can I Sue a Bar After a Drunk Driving Accident in Illinois?

Illinois is one of many states that has enacted what are called “dram shop laws.” A dram shop is a place where alcoholic beverages are sold, such as a bar, restaurant, nightclub, pub, or similar venue. Dram shop laws establish legal accountability for these businesses to serve alcohol in a responsible manner.

Under Illinois law, a person has the right to sue a bar for the actions of a drunk driver who became intoxicated at the establishment. Illinois dram shop laws (included under Illinois’ Liquor Control Act) are somewhat different from other states’ laws in that a bar can be held liable even if there was no negligence on their part.

In many other states, it is the responsibility of the plaintiff (the injured party filing the lawsuit) to prove that the vendor committed negligence by overserving the customer (or by serving a minor), who then went on to cause the drunk driving accident. That is not the case in Illinois. In Illinois, the plaintiff is only obligated to prove that:

  • The vendor sold alcohol to the person who caused the injury
  • The vendor sold the alcohol that caused or contributed to the person’s intoxication
  • The person’s intoxication caused the injuries

All dram shop claims are subject to a statute of limitations that typically only gives injured parties one year to come forward with legal action. The terms of the Illinois Liquor Control Act generally allow these parties to be held liable for a drunk driver’s negligence:

  • The party that sold or provided alcohol
  • The party that owns, rents, or leases the property where the alcohol was provided
  • A person over 21 who rents a hotel room knowing it will be used by minors to consume alcohol

What Evidence Do I Need To Sue a Bar for a Drunk Driver’s Negligence?

Your lawyer will need to find the evidence to prove that the drunk driver was a patron and became intoxicated by the alcohol served at the bar.

Evidence needed to sue a bar for a drunk driver’s negligence might include:

  • The bar’s security camera footage
  • Social media posts made by the drunk driver or another person at the bar
  • Cell phone pictures and video showing the drunk driver drinking alcohol at the bar
  • Receipts, credit card transactions, and business records from the bar
  • Police reports made at the crash scene
  • Criminal charges for drunk driving (DUI or DWI)
  • Field sobriety test results
  • Eyewitness testimony

What Damages Can I Recover by Filing a Drunk Driving Lawsuit Against a Bar?

One of the benefits of suing a bar for a drunk driver’s negligence is that bars generally have more insurance coverage than the drunk driver. Liquor-licensed establishments are required to carry considerable insurance coverage for just this reason. When you file a lawsuit against a bar, your losses and costs of recovery are more likely to be fully covered.

Recovering from a drunk driving accident can be extremely costly in terms of the financial, physical, and emotional toll it takes on the injured person. Through an Illinois dram shop claim, you may be entitled to recover both economic and non-economic damages, giving you the ability to regain the full spectrum of your financial and non-financial losses.

The amount and type of damages you can seek in your lawsuit will depend on the type and severity of your losses. By suing a bar for a drunk driver’s negligence, you may be able to recover damages such as:

  • Ambulance and hospital fees
  • Medical exams, tests, and other procedures
  • Prescription medications
  • Surgery
  • Physical therapy
  • Permanent disability
  • Lost wages
  • Loss of future earnings
  • Mental health care costs
  • Emotional anguish
  • Pain and suffering
  • Loss of enjoyment of life

If your loved one lost their life in a fatal accident caused by a drunk driver, the surviving family may be entitled to wrongful death damages such as funeral and burial expenses, medical bills incurred prior to the decedent’s death, loss of financial support, loss of guidance and companionship, and more. A wrongful death attorney from Prince Law Firm can meet with you to discuss your case if your family lost a loved one in an auto collision caused by a drunk driver.

Punitive damages may also apply in a drunk driving accident case. Punitive damages are a financial punishment decided by the court. It is a monetary amount the defendant must pay to the victim, not to compensate the victim’s losses, but as a deterrent to future acts of negligence. It is a way to make an example of particularly hurtful behavior, so a statement is made against this type of negligence. Punitive damages are rare in personal injury cases, but your lawyer from Prince Law Firm will be able to tell you if they apply in your case.

Find a Lawyer Who Can Handle Dram Shop Liability Cases in Illinois

You cannot sue a bar for a drunk driver’s negligence in every case. But if your case warrants a lawsuit against a liquor vendor, we will make sure to build you the strongest case possible.

We want to make sure you have the financial security to afford the medical care you need to make a full recovery. We want you to have peace of mind that the drunk driver was held accountable for their unacceptable actions. And we want you to feel safer going forward, knowing that there is a law firm on your side working diligently to protect the people of Marion.

To learn if you can sue a bar after a drunk driving accident that injured you or someone you love, contact us today. You only need to call or complete our online intake form to claim your free case evaluation. An experienced drunk driving accident lawyer from Prince Law Firm is ready to answer your questions.



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