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Can providers of alcohol be liable in drunk driving accidents?

Being involved in an accident caused by a drunk driver can be very upsetting. Not only are there injuries and property damage to worry about, but the fact is that these accidents are completely preventable. Victims of these accidents can be understandably mad and it is only natural that they want to hold the appropriate parties accountable for the accident.

In many situations, it is the alleged drunk driver who is held primarily responsible for damages. However, there may be other parties who can be held liable for a drunk driving crash and it is important to know who these parties may be, as it could increase the likelihood that victims and their families recover maximum compensation.

Many states have what are called "dram shop" laws. Essentially, these laws establish that certain vendors or retailers that supply alcohol can be named in a drunk driving accident in some situations.

State laws vary considerably, but Georgia dram shop laws limits liability to parties who knowingly provide alcohol to obviously intoxicated people and minors who will be driving. 

This means that if an underage drinker causes an accident, it may be possible to hold the person who provided alcohol for the minor at least partially accountable for damages. It may also be possible hold accountable a party who sold or served alcohol to someone "who is in a state of noticeable intoxication, knowing that such person will soon be driving a motor vehicle." 

It is important to note that establishing liability under dram shop laws can be very difficult and legally complex. It can require extensive legal knowledge and familiarity with state drunk driving laws. Rather than potentially lose out on compensation for injuries suffered as a result of a drunk driver, it can be prudent to discuss individual cases with an attorney. 

Source: National Conference of State Legislatures, "Dram Shop Civil Liability and Criminal Penalty State Statutes," accessed on Nov. 17, 2014

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