When Can Bars Be Held Liable for DUI Accidents in Florida?
Florida is home to many destinations for fun and relaxation. Across the state, hot spots for locals and tourists alike offer up world-class dining and entertainment at theme parks, music venues, and one-of-a-kind bars. However, it’s easy for a night of fun in Florida to quickly turn sour when a DUI is involved.
Motorists involved in DUI accidents may be left shouldering the responsibility of the crash, but are there circumstances where a bar can be held liable for their involvement in a DUI incident? Florida’s regulations and laws regarding drunk driving have changed drastically over the years, but they come with a few important exceptions.
What Is a Dram Shop Law?
In the State of Florida, as well as 42 other states and Washington DC, a dram shop law is one that can potentially place liability for damages caused in a DUI accident on someone who serves alcohol to the driver that caused a collision, including bars, restaurants, and events that were visited by the inebriated individual prior to the incident. This is not applicable for every drunk driving accident, and in order for a third party to be held liable, the incident must meet a specific set of circumstances.
In many cases, dram shop laws are invoked so that drunk driving accident victims can hold third parties liable for damages and injuries they incurred. This is especially necessary for victims who are unable to obtain compensation after the accident due to insurance complications and require an alternative path to obtain financial restitution.
Florida Dram Shop Laws and DUI Liability
Although it may seem that this would allow every drunk driver to force liability onto a third party which served them alcohol, Florida has a series of laws in place to ensure that dram shop laws are only used in appropriate circumstances.
One statute, introduced in 1980, removes the possibility for establishments to be held liable for damages or injury caused by intoxicated motorists of legal drinking age. The same statute applies to anyone who serves alcohol to “visibly intoxicated patrons” who are not known to be alcohol abusers.
Situations can occur, however, where a third party such as a bar or a restaurant can potentially be held liable for a drunk driving accident. Florida dram shop laws limit liability to circumstances when a drunk driving victim is hurt or damaged by a minor or an individual who is a known alcohol abuser, explained further as:
- Serving minors: Any bartender, host, restaurant, or bar that serves alcohol to a minor may be liable if the minor becomes intoxicated and causes a drunk driving accident.
- Serving “habitually addicted” individuals: Any bartender, host, restaurant, or bar that serves alcohol to a known alcoholic may be liable for injuries or damages they cause.
The legal requirements for both of these circumstances are similar: a bar or restaurant must have acted “willfully” and consciously, rather than negligently, when serving alcohol to a minor or a known habitual addict prior to an accident they caused while intoxicated that resulted in damages or injury.
How Is DUI Classified in Florida?
The State of Florida classifies the act of driving under the influence as operating a vehicle under the impairment of alcoholic beverages, chemical substances, or controlled substances. Florida officers utilize breathalyzers to measure a driver’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to determine their intoxication based on whether their BAC is .08% or more.
There are no methods for officers to identify whether an individual is legally driving under the influence of any illicit substances without a chemical test, but law enforcement may rely on reasonable suspicion to pull an individual over if they are driving in a pattern that indicates any level of intoxication.
After a trial, some drivers may encounter license suspensions, a probationary period, or rehabilitation in a chemical treatment center. In more serious circumstances, individuals who are facing DUI charges in Florida may be subject to thousands of dollars in fines, vehicle impoundment, or imprisonment.
Work with Trusted DUI Attorneys in Florida
Facing liability for a DUI can be complex and overwhelming. Let the experienced team of legal professionals at The Umansky Law Firm take care of your case and help you obtain the outcome you deserve. We believe that everyone deserves a second chance, and we will work day and night to get it for you. Our firm of dedicated and reliable attorneys has successfully defended clients all over Florida, and we can help you too.
When you’re ready to move forward with your defense, contact the skilled attorneys at The Umansky Law Firm on our website for a free case review or reach out to us over the phone at (407) 228-3838 to find out more information.