When a person, bar other liquor licensee serves a minor or an intoxicated person and that drunk driver is involved in an auto accident causing personal injury, property damages, or the death of an innocent person, the Drunk Driver often has obvious liability both criminal and civil. These cases end up in the news but the entity or person that overserves them is often overlooked and can end up evading liability and criminal prosecution. Typically, this is the bar, restaurant and/or the store that sold the minor or drunk driver the alcohol.
I was driving down US -131in Downtown Grand Rapids and saw a Michigan Department of Transportation Road sign that indicated that Drunk Drivers were responsible for 30% of all Traffic Accident Deaths last year in West Michigan. Throughout Kent, Muskegon, Ottawa, Allegan Counties, and in our local communities of Grand Rapids, Grand Haven, Wyoming, Kentwood, Holland, Muskegon there are bars that watch drinkers come in set down the car keys, and start drinking.
These same bars watch these people drink to obvious and visible intoxication. They make no effort to until they cause a disturbance or otherwise cause issues with drunken behavior to curtail the drinking or cut them off. These bars have all had training on how to spot an intoxicated person or otherwise protect the patron or our community but they don’t. Often it is a regular, tips well and they don’t want to upset that relationship or take action.
Michigan has enacted ”Dramshop” laws that make it illegal for a business to serve alcohol to a visibly intoxicated person MCL 436.1801 states:
A retail licensee shall not directly, individually, or by a clerk, agent, or servant sell, furnish, or give alcoholic liquor to a minor except as otherwise provided in this act. A retail licensee shall not directly or indirectly, individually or by a clerk, agent, or servant sell, furnish or give alcoholic liquor to an individual who is visibly intoxicated.
Most auto accidents have a three-year statute of limitations in which to bring a cause of action, this being the time limit in which you must bring your lawsuit or your claim is forever barred and you cannot recover. In a dramshop claim, the claim against the entity or person that served the minor or intoxicated person, the action against the entity serving the alcohol must be filed within 2 years and you have to provide notice to all defendants within 120 days of entering an attorney-client relationship. Failure to give the notice within the time frame or filing the suit within the 2 years will cause your case to be dismissed and the injured person may get no recovery. MCL 436.1801(3) does provide some exceptions but those will face certain scrutiny by the Courts and the insurance companies defending the entity who over-served the drunk driver.
When considering a lawyer for this type of case you need not only a lawyer who understands Michigan No-Fault Laws but the Dramshop laws as well. It is important that once you enter the attorney-client relationship that notice is provided to all defendants. This means each business that served him alcohol. This may not be easy as if the Defendant is facing criminal charges, he may exercise his right to remain silent and not be willing to discuss where he was drinking.
Your lawyer should also have a solid understanding of the Drunk Driving Laws and the Science behind not only the Blood Breath and Urine test but the Field Sobriety Tests and other indicators of intoxication that a bartender or another defendant should easily see. Since we have sued the drunk drivers and the bars that served them, we know it is important to get an investigator out determine immediately who, what, where and how much drinking occurred. With over 29 years of experience, we know what to look for and where. We have also defended Drunk Drivers and that gives a unique ability to pursue these claims and get you the compensation you are entitled to.
We represented an on-duty police officer who was hit by a drunk driver. He suffered a knee injury that ultimately ended his career. Other lawyers he consulted did not see the serious nature of the accident and never even tried to find the Bar where he was drinking. We sent an investigator to multiple bars in Montcalm County until we found the establishment that served him. While the driver was uninsured the bar had plenty of insurance and we were able to get him the compensation he was entitled to t start a new career.