Many states have laws on the books that allow third-party liability claims in personal injury cases involving injuries caused by an intoxicated party. These are typically called "dram shop" claims. The name stems from the unit of measure by which alcohol used to be sold, a dram.
Dram shop laws vary state by state and typically assign third party liability to alcohol vendors that supply alcohol by which an individual who has caused injury became intoxicated. Most states require that the vendor supplied alcohol even after the individual was obviously intoxicated and impaired. Illinois law only requires that the claim prove the vendor supplied the alcohol that intoxicated the injuring party and was responsible for the impairment that caused the injury.
Though the burden of proof is lessened, there are still very specific elements that must accompany any successful dram shop claim in Illinois. One must prove that the party that caused the injury was indeed intoxicated at the time of the injury; that the vender sold or gave the alcohol to the individual that consumed it; that the alcohol the vendor supplied the individual caused their intoxication at the time of the injury; that the injuries resulted, at least in part, from the intoxication; and that injuries or personal damage suffered by the injured party were caused by the intoxicated individual.
The kind of damages awarded in dram shop claims include medical treatment (including future medical bills resulting from the injuries suffered); lost wages, property damages, pain and suffering; and loss of means of support. Plaintiffs can be awarded loss of society damages as well, however not in conjunction with loss of means of support awards. Unlike most other types of claims, there is a cap in recoverable damages, however.
Illinois dram shop claims only apply to licensed vendors of alcohol, not private homes or individuals that serve alcoholic beverages (as in the case of a home gathering or party, for instance), called "social hosts." Social hosts are not held to any significant level of liability like alcohol vendors. However, Illinois does provide a limited degree of social host liability if the intoxicated party is under the Illinois drinking age minimum of 21.
Unlike most other personal injury cases, dram shop personal injury claims have to be filed within the one year statute of limitations imposed by the state.
If you have questions regarding third party liability cases, including dram shop law, contact Panio Law Offices at (708) 928-8680. We have experienced personal injury attorneys that understand the nuances of Illinois law and are skilled at establishing the burden of proof, and winning awards for our clients in these cases.
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