In the United States, drunk drivers are responsible for 1 out of every 3 traffic fatalities.  Every 53 minutes, someone is killed by a drunk driver.  Every 2 minutes, someone is injured by a drunk driver.  In Kentucky alone, drunk drivers kill around 204 people a year.  And, the numbers are not dropping.  In fact, 2016 will likely exceed the yearly average.

Throughout the Commonwealth, drinking and driving devastates families.  As a society, we all possess a responsibility to do our part in keeping drunk drivers off the road.  Kentucky law assigns a specific responsibility to bars and restaurants which serve alcoholic beverages.  Sellers of alcohol beverages are subject to “dram shop” liability.  If a drunk driver causes a collision, the drunk driver is obviously liable.  But, in addition to holding the drunk driver liable, dram shop laws allow victims to proceed against a bar or restaurant under certain circumstances.  Pursuant to KRS §413.241, servers of alcohol are liable if they serve alcohol to an individual when a reasonable person under the same or similar circumstances should know that the individual served is already intoxicated.  If you can prove dram shop liability, the bar is financially responsible for all damage caused by the intoxicated driver.

While the dram shop concept is pretty simple, actually proving dram shop liability is more difficult than you would think.  Following the collision, the drunk driver often faces criminal charges and cannot communicate with victim representatives due to 5th amendment protections.  Victims are left looking for other sources to figure out where the driver was drinking and how much alcohol the driver consumed at a particular location.  Sometimes, the police obtain this information.  Even if the police have an idea, confirming the bar knew or should have known the driver was intoxicated at the time of service is still tricky business.

More times than not, there are no credit card receipts confirming the exact amount of drinks served to the driver, and bartenders never admit to overserving someone.  So, how do you prove the bar knew or should have known that the driver was already intoxicated at the time of service?  How do you prove the driver did not consume a pint of vodka in his or her car or go to a friend’s house after leaving the bar?  You gather evidence, and you gather it quickly.  For example, surveillance cameras aimed at or around the bar and/or parking lot might capture the drunk driver walking to his or her car.  If the driver is stumbling when they walk out, that’s pretty good evidence.  But, surveillance cameras record over pretty frequently (usually 24 hours to one week).  Right away, you must go to the scene, send investigators to gather footage, interview witnesses and bar patrons, and collect open records, social media data, photographs, ATM information, and anything else you can find.  You must also immediately send a spoliation letter demanding that the bar preserve any and all documents reflecting sales on the date of the collision and maintain the premises in the exact same condition as it appeared on the date of the collision.  As quickly as possible, you also want to inspect the bar itself.  Acting quickly dramatically increases the strength of a potential dram shop claim.

If a drunk driver has hurt your family, we have the experience and the knowledge to help.  Call the law offices of DeCamillis & Mattingly, PLLC today (502) 589-2822.