Drunkenness is a common cause of car accidents. You would assume that whoever was behind the wheel when your car was hit would be a fair target for a personal injury claim if they were drunk at the time. Drunk drivers have only themselves to blame if they cause an accident, or have they? In many states, including Tennessee, there is a law that not everyone knows about. It’s called the dram shop law. Basically, if the drunk who hit you was served alcohol by a commercial establishment in the full knowledge that the person was already drunk, then any harm they do could mean that the seller would also be partly to blame.
Why not just sue the driver?
You might think that trying to get a bar tender or bar manager to admit to serving a drunk or a minor alcohol is in the too hard basket. Why not just sue the drunk driver? One good reason is that the drunk might not have enough insurance, or any insurance at all. If you have serious injuries, it is going to be expensive paying for extensive medical treatment as well as keep the bills paid if you are forced to take time off work while being treated.
Tennessee is not a no-fault state, i.e. not all drivers take out voluntary personal injury protection (PIP) insurance as it isn’t compulsory. Even if you did, it might not cover the full cost of a serious traffic injury. You are reliant on suing the drunk driver. The fact that the driver was intoxicated might make it easier to prove that the accident was the drunk driver’s fault. As long as the driver didn’t make a bee line for it and flee the scene, it’s very likely that police would arrive at the accident scene soon and the driver (and probably you too) would be tested for your blood alcohol content. Make sure you get the police report they will compile as well as any eye witness contact details as this will all be useful to you later on when you get round to filing a personal injury claim against the driver’s own insurance.
Finding out whether the bar was at fault
This is where you might need swift intervention by a Nashville car accident attorney who can establish just how the driver got drunk. If he was at a private drinking session or party, the host cannot be blamed for any harm the drunk is responsible for, unless the driver is a minor and the host knows that. However, if the driver got drunk after drinking at a commercial establishment, then the ball game is different. If the bar or drinking place served enough alcohol to make the person intoxicated, knowing that s/he was going to drive, or served alcohol after the person had already showed obvious signs of intoxication, then this could render the establishment or employees within it liable under the state’s dram shop legislation.
If this can be proved, then liability would be shared between the driver and the place where the driver became drunk, the ratio of liability dependent on the specific circumstances. In the event that the drunk driver had insufficient insurance, no insurance or sufficient assets to pay compensation, the fact that there is a shared liability situation does mean that at least you should get some or all compensation claimed.
The reason for acting swiftly is that bar managers and employees may deny serving the driver or that the driver was obviously intoxicated, especially if they are fully aware that they may be sued under dram shop law rules. However, there may be clients at the bar who might offer to make statements about what they witnessed, or the bar had a security camera filming the night’s events. Your attorney may be able to issue a sub-poena ordering the release of video footage which could provide evidence of negligent activity by the bar.
Nashville Injury Attorney can help you
It can be easy to feel overwhelmed following a serious auto accident injury, but you are in good hands with Nashville Injury Attorney.
When you come to discuss your accident with us, there are no fees involved. If we take your case on, you don’t have to worry about upfront fees as we operate on a no win-no fee basis.
You don’t pay a cent unless we win your case. Keith Williams and his team at Nashville Injury Attorney have won millions of dollars in compensation for auto accident victims, including a 6.2 million dollar settlement. You can count on us for experience, service and results.