Drunk Drivers May Not Be Only Liable Parties in DUI Accidents

The Labor Day holiday weekend will represent the end of summer for many Atlanta residents. Families and friends throughout Georgia will be grilling out, swimming, or partaking in any one of many other outdoor activities over the course of the weekend.

Several people are also likely to enjoy an alcoholic beverage during these activities. Some people will consume too much alcohol to safely operate motor vehicles.

Police officers will be out in force in Atlanta and surrounding areas to arrest members of that latter group for driving under the influence (DUI). Responsible people who do not drink or appoint designated drivers understandably expect safe drives during such holiday weekends, but it is important to remember that these law-abiding citizens still must share the roads with drunk drivers.

We are reminded of this unfortunate truth following almost every automobile accident involving a motorist who is charged with DUI. Sadly, it is often innocent people who are killed or suffer catastrophic, life-altering injuries.

Fortunately, there is usually legal recourse for accident victims and their families in these types of cases. Drunk drivers may not only be held liable for economic (objectively verifiable financial losses such as lost wages or medical expenses) and noneconomic (subjective non-financial harm such as pain and suffering or loss of consortium) damages, but punitive damages as well.

Punitive damages (also known as vindictive damages or exemplary damages) are rarely awarded in personal injury cases, but a jury or court may award them “because of aggravating circumstances in order to penalize, punish, or deter a defendant.” While punitive damages are frequently capped at a maximum of $250,000 per case, there are no limits in intentional tort cases such as lawsuits brought against drunk drivers.

Georgia Dram Shop and Social Host Liability Laws

Sometimes the negligent party who caused the DUI accident does not have sufficient assets or financial resources to adequately compensate victims or their families. Fortunately, Georgia state law does allow for victims and their families to seek compensation from the parties that served alcohol to the drunk driver.

Liability for acts of intoxicated persons under Georgia Code § 51-1-40 is better known as the state’s dram shop and social host law. This law allows an injured victim or the family of a person killed in a drunk driving accident to seek damages from the party who served alcohol to the drunk driver in certain cases.

A bar, restaurant, or even private person can be liable for injury, death, or damage caused by or resulting from the intoxication of a person that the bar, restaurant, or other entity willfully, knowingly, and unlawfully sold, furnished, or served alcoholic beverages to. This liability applies in all cases in which the drunk driver was a minor, but it becomes more complicated when the alleged offender was an adult of legal drinking age.

In such cases, the alleged offender must be “a person who is in a state of noticeable intoxication” and the bar, restaurant, or other entity must have known that such person would soon be driving a motor vehicle. In these types of cases, attorneys for liable businesses or social hosts will usually argue that their clients either were unaware of the degree of the alleged offender’s intoxication or had no idea that he or she intended to drive.

If you were seriously injured or your loved one was killed as the result of a drunk driver’s negligence, you will want to make sure that you have your own Atlanta personal injury lawyer exploring all of your options. Experience legal counsel can help ensure that you obtain every last dollar of compensation that you need and deserve.

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ReShea Balams

Reshea Balams

A native of Birmingham, Alabama, ReShea Balams focuses her practice on personal injury litigation. Over the past several years, she has represented individuals and families in serious personal injury cases in the Atlanta metropolitan area.

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  • Georgia Trial Lawyers Association
  • Atlanta Bar Association
  • Gate City Bar Association
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  • State Bar of Georgia
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