Aim of Washington State’s “Dram Shop” and “Social Host” Laws Is to Reduce Drunk Driving

Washington, like most states, has a so-called “dram shop” law that is designed to discourage a bar or restaurant from serving drinks to an individual who has already consumed too much. The laws get their name from the fact that in the old days alcohol was measured by the dram (16 drams per fluid ounce).

Dram Shop Laws Try to Stem Poor Judgment

Although there is some variation from state to state, dram shop laws generally provide for some sort of penalty – usually a fine, sometimes even imprisonment – when the establishment or bartender has failed to exercise good judgment and continued to serve an inebriated customer. Washington State’s dram shop law is an acknowledgment that the same sort of poor judgment that allows someone to drink too much tends to continue; “the drunk” often gets behind the wheel of a car.

In addition to its dram shop law, Washington State also has a “social host” law that prohibits the furnishing of liquor or other alcoholic beverages to minors by anyone. One need not be a bartender or bar owner to violate this law; serving a beer to the 19-year-old next-door neighbor is sufficient.

How Does the Dram Shop or Social Host Law Help an Accident Victim?

Where a bar owner or restaurant continues to serve drinks to a patron after the patron shows signs of being drunk, that bar owner/restaurant can be held liable in a civil action for damages caused by the actions of the drunk. Those damages are in addition to the damages owed by the person who had too much to drink. This is significant. Ordinarily a victim would have to prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that it was foreseeable that someone would be injured by the bar owner’s continued pouring of drinks.

Foreseeability is not always easy to show. With the dram shop law, however, the victim need only prove that a reasonable person would have suspected the drinker had consumed too much.

Similarly, with the social host law, all that need be shown is that a minor was served alcohol. If so, then he or she who served the alcohol can be liable for any damages caused to others by the minor. Unlike the dram shop law situation, the social host law does not become active when the minor has had too much to drink; serving even a single drink is sufficient.

Establishment of Dram Shop or Social Host Violation Usually Requires Skilled Legal Counsel

Bolan Law Group. has extensive experience representing people who have suffered personal injury and property damage in automobile accidents. You benefit from having a group of attorneys who work within a collaborative environment. Personal injury claims are ordinarily handled on a contingency basis. That is to say – we are with you for the long haul; we do not charge a legal fee until and unless we recover compensation for you. Please know that time limits may affect or limit your ability to recover, so do not delay. Contact us on the web, or call either our Tacoma or our Puyallup office at (253) 470-2356.

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