When an individual is involved in an accident caused by another person, there are laws and rules that allow the injured person to seek compensation. In cases where alcohol is a factor, many states, including Florida, also have laws that allow the injured person to seek compensation from the third party that provided alcohol to the at-fault person. This is known as a dram shop law. Alcohol was once sold by a unit measure called a “dram,” which is where the law earned its name.
According to Florida’s dram shop law, if a person “willfully and unlawfully” serves alcohol to either an individual under 21 or “knowingly” serves alcohol to an individual who is addicted to alcohol, that person can be held liable for injuries caused by the individuals he or she should not have served. The law does not mention serving alcohol to someone who is clearly inebriated.
If, for example, Daniel stopped at a bar for a drink and the bartender is aware that he is an alcoholic, but serves him anyway, and Daniel later injures a pedestrian while driving home, the bar could be held liable. This would apply as well if Daniel were under 21.
If Daniel were also injured in the accident, he could also seek damages from the bar for serving him alcohol despite having known about his addiction.
Although vendors may be held responsible for serving alcohol to minors or alcoholics, this rule does not apply to social hosts who serve alcohol at private gatherings. If, for example, Daniel went to a friend’s party, was served alcohol, and injured a pedestrian on his way home, the host of that party would not be held liable for the pedestrian’s injuries. The pedestrian can still file seek financial compensation from Daniel, however.