Liability For Alcohol-Related Car Crashes Causing Personal Injury Or Wrongful Death

Car crashes or motorcycle accidents caused by alcohol intoxication can lead to more than just an Operating While Intoxicated offense.  Civil lawsuits for personal injury, wrongful death, or property damages are also possible if the crash hurts someone or damages property.  The drunk driver can certainly be liable, and if the driver was drinking at a bar at some point before the crash the bar could be liable too for contributing to the driver’s intoxication.

Bar owner liability for alcohol-related car accidents is set by Iowa’s “dram shop” statute, Iowa Code 123.92.  That statute extends liability for alcohol-related car crashes (and other types of injuries) to bar owners who serve alcohol to the person who causes the crash.  Liability can be imposed if the bar serves someone when the bar’s employees knew or should have known that the customer would become intoxicated or was already intoxicated.  A person is considered intoxicated if the person’s reason or mental ability has been affected, the person’s judgment is impaired, the person’s emotions are visibly excited, or the person has, to any extent, lost control of bodily actions.

Arguments often occur in dram shop cases over whether a particular establishment was responsible for the intoxication when the person visited multiple places the same day or night.  Iowa law holds that the alcohol served by a particular bar does not have to be the sole cause of the intoxication.  It is enough if it was a contributing cause of the intoxication.  That opens the possibility for more than one place to be liable in a dram shop action if several contributed to the intoxication.

Dram shop cases have tricky statutory requirements and deadlines for preserving your legal rights if you’re contemplating an action against a bar for an alcohol-related injury.  Also, there are several nuances in the dram shop law that require careful legal analysis and attention.  These are not claims that you’d want to attempt without an attorney.  Please feel free to contact me if you have a potential dram shop claim you’d like to discuss.  I’d be happy to speak with you and see if I can help out.


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