19 May, 2014
By: Donald W Fohrman

Dram shop liability in Illinois

A Taylorville man was recently charged with a DUI and driving with a revoked license after he rolled his vehicle in a one-car accident on Route 104. The two passengers in his car were severely injured and treated at nearby hospitals, while the driver reported no injuries. In some cases, Illinois law gives injured parties like these passengers the option to seek damages from more than just drivers and their insurance companies.
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Provisions of the Dram Shop Act

The Illinois Dram Shop Act allows some injured third parties to receive compensation from bars, taverns or other establishments that sold alcohol to the drunk drivers who caused their injuries. Owners of these properties may be held liable as well. To receive relief via the Dram Shop Act, plaintiffs must clearly prove that the following is true:

  • The dram shop sold alcoholic beverages to the driver who was responsible for the accident within the state of Illinois.
  • The alcohol that the establishment provided to the driver caused or contributed to the driver’s intoxication.
  • The driver’s drunkenness is at least one factor that caused the plaintiff to sustain injuries. 

The statute of limitations on these claims is one year from the date of injury. There are also limitations to the amount plaintiffs may receive if their claims are successful. Each year, the liability limits increase or decrease based upon changes in the consumer price index during the preceding 12 month period. During 2014, each plaintiff seeking relief for damages can receive up to $65,017.86 for a personal injury claim and the same amount for a property damage claim. When seeking damages for loss of society after the death of a loved one, or for a loss of means of support if the breadwinner of the family is unable to work, plaintiffs can receive a combined judgment no higher than $79,466.27.

The effect of dram shop liability laws

Mothers Against Drunk Driving found that dram shop liability laws helped decrease fatal crashes by 5.8 percent in some areas in the U.S. immediately after their implementation. Studies further indicate that states with higher levels of liability have more dram shop managers and servers who are aware of their potential to be held liable in a drunk driving traffic accident. Other research shows that states that enact laws with strict liability for dram shops have few low price drink promotions, such as happy hours, which results in lower alcohol consumption. These states also implement more thorough identification checks, so fewer minors are granted access to alcohol illegally. The laws’ effectiveness, researchers suggest, is likely due to the creation of an economic incentive for establishments to have responsible serving practices in place.

Dram shop liability laws create an extra avenue for victims of drunk driving accidents to receive compensation for their damages. Individuals in Chicago who have suffered severe injuries due to the actions of a drunk driver can contact a personal injury attorney who specializes in dram shop liability to discuss their matter.

About The Author

Photo of Donald W Fohrman
After completing law school Donald became an assistant Attorney General for 7 years and was assigned to the Industrial Commission Division. During that time he spent evenings establishing his own firm. Donald became a founding partner of a large workers’ compensation/personal injury firm but decided to leave the firm in 1990 to start a smaller “boutique” firm with the belief that bigger isn’t always better!

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