In today’s society, where alcohol consumption and drunk driving remain prevalent, questions arise regarding the accountability of establishments that serve alcohol to individuals who later commit acts of destruction while under the influence. One such question that arises is, “Can a bar be held liable for a drunk driver?” This complex legal matter surrounding an establishment’s duty of care in preventing drunk driving incidents can be complicated.

A display of liquor bottles behind a bar

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Florida Dram Shop laws

In Florida, Dram Shop laws dictate the potential liability that bars and other establishments serving alcohol may face in situations involving drunk driving incidents. Under these laws, if certain conditions are met, establishments and their employees who serve alcohol can be held responsible for injuries or damages caused by an intoxicated patron.

Who can be held responsible?

Florida’s Dram Shop laws focus on bars, restaurants, clubs, and other places serving alcohol. These entities and their employees may be held accountable if they knowingly served alcohol to a person known or believed to be under 21 years old. Next, the person furnishing the alcohol and the establishment could be held responsible if they willfully and knowingly served alcohol to someone who is habitually addicted to alcohol. 

It’s important to note that determining liability involves complex factors and will depend on the specific circumstances of each situation. Seeking advice from a personal injury attorney in Tampa who is experienced in this area of the law is crucial for understanding one’s rights and potential responsibilities.

Limitations on liability

Florida’s Dram Shop laws do have limitations on liability for establishments serving alcohol, including:

  • Statutes of limitations: In most cases, a claim against an establishment must be brought within four years from the date of the incident or injury caused by the drunk driver. However, most personal injury claims have a two-year time limit.
  • Causation requirements: The establishment can only be held liable if it can be proved they served alcohol as a proximate cause of the resulting harm or damages as allowed under Dram Shop laws
  • Contributory negligence: Florida follows a comparative negligence standard, which means that if it is determined that the injured party shares some fault in causing their injuries, any damages awarded may be reduced proportionately to their degree of fault
  • Intervening acts: If an intervening event or action occurs between when the intoxicated person leaves the establishment and when they cause harm, such as causing an accident after consuming more alcohol elsewhere, this may limit or eliminate liability for the serving establishment

It is important to consult with a Tampa drunk driving lawyer familiar with Florida’s Dram Shop laws to better understand these limitations and how they might apply in individual cases.

Proving liability

To prove liability against a person serving alcohol, bar, or establishment in a Florida Dram Shop case, the following elements must be established:

  • Duty of care: It must be shown that the establishment owed a duty of care to the injured party
  • Breach of duty: Next, it needs to be proven that the establishment breached its duty by serving alcohol to an addicted person or an individual under the legal drinking age
  • Proximate cause: Establishing proximate cause means showing that the establishment’s breach of duty (serving alcohol) directly caused or contributed significantly to the subsequent drunk driving incident and resulting injuries/damages
  • Damages: Finally, there must be evidence of actual injuries suffered by the injured party as a direct result of the drunk driving incident

What damages could be claimed from being injured by a drunk driver?

When injured in an accident caused by a drunk driver, various damages can be claimed. These can include:

  • Medical expenses: Compensation for current and future medical bills, including emergency care, hospitalization, surgeries, rehabilitation, medication costs, physical therapy, and other necessary treatments
  • Lost wages: Reimbursement for lost income from work missed while recovering or disability resulting from the accident. Additionally, if the injuries result in reduced earning capacity or permanent disability affecting future employment opportunities and earnings potential, those losses may also be claimed.
  • Pain and suffering: Non-economic damages compensate for pain endured as a result of the accident and subsequent injuries. This includes both immediate pain and ongoing discomfort.
  • Emotional distress: Compensation for psychological trauma suffered due to the incident that caused emotional anguish, such as anxiety disorders, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or other mental health conditions related to the crash
  • Property damage: Payment for repairs or replacement of damaged property involved in the accident
  • Punitive damages: In situations where the drunk driver’s actions were extremely reckless or intentional, punitive damages might be awarded to punish them further beyond compensatory damages while serving as a deterrent to others

How can a drunk driver injury attorney help me? 

A Tampa drunk driver accident attorney can be instrumental in helping you navigate the legal complexities and challenges associated with your case. Here are some key ways they can assist you:

  • Legal expertise: A drunk driver injury attorney specializes in personal injury law, specifically cases involving accidents caused by intoxicated drivers. They possess deep knowledge of relevant laws, regulations, and court precedents that pertain to your situation.
  • Case evaluation: An attorney will thoroughly assess the details of your case, including gathering evidence such as police reports, witness statements, medical records, bills, and other relevant documentation. This helps determine liability and establishes a strong foundation for pursuing compensation.
  • Building a strong case: The lawyer’s expertise allows them to construct a solid legal strategy tailored to the unique circumstances of your incident that demonstrate the at-fault party’s negligence or recklessness
  • Negotiations with insurance companies: Dealing with insurance companies can be challenging as they often attempt to minimize payouts or deny claims altogether. Your attorney will handle all communication and negotiations on your behalf to ensure fair compensation.
  • Court representation: If a settlement cannot be reached or is not in your best interest, an experienced attorney will zealously represent you during litigation proceedings
  • Maximizing compensation: Your attorney will strive to obtain the maximum compensation possible to cover your applicable damages
  • Providing guidance and support: Dealing with injuries from a drunk driving accident can be physically, emotionally, and financially overwhelming. A drunk driver injury attorney will offer guidance throughout the legal process while providing support and reassurance during this challenging time.

Do I have a case if the establishment is not responsible?

You can still have a case even when the establishment is not responsible and can seek damages for your injuries against the drunk driver and their insurance company. 

Speak to a drunk driver injury attorney today

A drunk driver injury attorney working on a tablet at her desk. In front of her is an open laptop, paperwork, a gavel, and the scales of justice.

If you or a loved one have been injured in an accident caused by a drunk driver, don’t face the legal battle alone. Speak to a dedicated drunk driver injury attorney from Jack Bernstein, Injury Attorneys in Tampa today. Our experienced team will fight tirelessly to protect your rights and seek the full compensation you deserve. 

Contact us now for a free consultation and case evaluation today.


Duty of Care. (2022).
FLA. STAT. § 768.125. (2023).
FLA. STAT. § 95.11. (2023).

Tampa Car Accident + Personal Injury Lawyers

Jack Bernstein Personal Injury Attorney

For more than 40 years, personal injury lawyer Jack G. Bernstein has protected the rights of individuals who have been injured in a variety of circumstances. Throughout his career, Bernstein has been a strategist thoroughly dedicated to the idea of protecting the rights of his clients. Mr. Bernstein is a member of the Florida State Bar Association, the Hillsborough Bar Association and the Clearwater Bar Association.

Mr. Bernstein has the experience and expertise to handle a wide range of injury cases. Among the types of plaintiffs Mr. Bernstein represents are individuals involved in car accidents caused by drunk drivers or other exhibiting negligence, medical complications resulting from carelessness caused by a physician or a medical facility, including brain injury, bicycle, motorcycle, moped and truck accidents, admiralty law and cruise ship accidents, accidental drownings, all types of wrongful death lawsuits, along with most injury, catastrophic occurrences and legal malpractice issues.

Our firm handles every type of personal injury and accident case, using negotiation and litigation tactics effectively. We handle cases throughout Tampa, Sarasota, St. Petersburg, and Clearwater, FL. With a staff of approximately 40 people, including six lawyers and 34 support personnel, we have the legal resources to get the justice you deserve and the maximum recovery for your losses. Schedule your free consultation today; we are always here to help.

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