Over-Serving and Wrong Way Accidents: Is There a Connection?
There aren’t many people, if any, who would deny that drinking and driving is a serious issue that can lead to serious consequences. There’s no doubt that a driver, if it’s proven that he or she was intoxicated, bears much of the responsibility for any accident that they cause out on the road. There are many cases coming up, however, that may point to another potential cause for dangerous accidents. Head-on collisions are amongst the most detrimental accidents, and it’s slowly starting to look like bartenders over-serving their patrons may be a contributing factor.
Laws about Over-Serving
The laws in many states make establishments and/or bartenders liable for injuries or damage that are caused by a drunk driver who was served at the venue. These are known as “dram shop laws.” It’s important to note, however, that some states will also pull a bar or restaurant’s alcohol license if they’re caught repeatedly serving alcohol to individuals who are already intoxicated.
In Washington State, for instance, police ask every driver that they suspect of driving under the influence (DUI) where they were drinking prior to driving. If a certain establishment’s name repeatedly comes up, police will perform a sting operation to catch them in the act.
Though it can be unfavorable for a business to lose its alcohol license, it can be just as injurious when both bar and bartenders are sued by drunk driving victims in some cases. If it can be shown that a bartender served an already intoxicated person who later went on to cause an accident, the victim has a good case for negligence.
Instances of Head-On Collisions
With the assurgency of DUI cases, wrong-way accidents and deaths making headlines across the country, many of these cases are occurring in southern states like Georgia and Florida. Both Atlanta and Tampa DUI attorney offices have been inundated with defending motorists charged with driving under the influence. The fact that some of these drunk drivers involved in head-on collisions have been found to have been over-served at local establishments has become more common. One of these collisions occurred in Gwinnett County, GA when a drunk driver collided head-on with 23-year-old college student Eddie Ko. Witnesses claimed that the driver, who crossed the center line and hit Ko’s vehicle, had been served in an establishment even though he was obviously drunk.
In another instance, this one resulting in a $1 million settlement against the negligent establishment, On the Rox Sports Bar was held liable for a crash that resulted in two deaths and serious injuries for another person. This crash occurred when a driver was actually heading the wrong way on Interstate 45 in Texas. The $1 million settlement may seem hefty, but to many, it seems relatively minute when compared to the two lives lost.
Not all of these instances end in the deaths of other drivers. In January 2009, for instance, Titiana Fury was witnessed being served alcohol at an establishment in Miami-Dade County, Florida that she frequented. When she left, she was involved in a head-on collision that ended her own life. Her father went on to sue the establishment that had served her; this goes to prove that the common “it was her own fault” argument doesn’t always apply when someone is seriously inebriated.
While there is no single piece of evidence that has shown without a doubt that bartenders over-serving their patrons can contribute to head-on collisions, the accumulation of evidence will likely lead to a study on the subject one day. In actuality, the assertion makes full sense considering the fact that many people leaving bars are driving home, and those who have been over-served are more likely to be involved in accidents. This is why everyone in a bar, whether a patron or a bartender, should take it seriously when it appears that someone has had one too many.
Jamica Bell is a writer and parent of young drivers. As an advocate of safe driving, she contributes this article to bring awareness to the dangers of drinking while intoxicated. David A Katz is a Tampa DUI attorney and partner of Katz & Phillips, P.A law offices who works to raise awareness of issues of DUI. He is one of only two lawyers who is DUI Board Certified in the state of Florida, and conscientiously protects the rights of his clients.
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