Drunk man driving a car on the road holding bottle beer .

Hit By a Drunk Driver? Why the Bar May Be Responsible 

Downs, McDonough, Cowan & Foley  Oct. 10, 2022

If you have been hit by a noticeably drunk driver, you probably wonder why no one stopped them from getting behind the wheel of a vehicle.  

If you sustained injuries and damages that will never be compensated by the drunk driver’s liability coverage, you may be wondering how you will ever recover from what they have done. Although Colorado requires auto owners to carry at least $25,000 in liability insurance, that’s a drop in the proverbial bucket in most accidents.  

Is someone else responsible for putting a drunk driver on the road? Can you sue the bar that served the alcohol? 

At Downs, McDonough, Cowan & Foley, LLC, we help clients hit by drunk drivers in Durango, Telluride, Pagosa Springs, and Cortez, Colorado, find out whether the bar that served a drunk driver can be held responsible for their damages. Every party whose negligence contributed to causing the accident should be held accountable, and we will investigate every angle to make sure they are.  

What Is Colorado’s Dram Shop Liability Law? 

The dram shop liability law in Colorado addresses civil liability a bar, another establishment, or individual serving alcohol may be exposed to if someone they served later causes an alcohol-related car accident.  

The burden of proof of negligence in serving alcohol is extremely high. An injury victim can’t merely prove a vendor sold or served alcohol to the drunk individual. They must prove that the bartender knowingly and willfully served or sold alcohol to a visibly drunk person or to any person under the age of 21.  

If the bartender serves alcohol to someone under the legal drinking age who presents a fake ID, they won’t be held accountable if that underage drinker leaves and causes an accident. If the bartender knows the drinker is underage and serves them anyway, the bartender can be held liable.  

If a patron over the age of 21 is visibly intoxicated, the bartender should refuse to provide any further alcohol. If they do not, they can be held liable. Keep in mind that some extremely drunk people may not appear to be extremely intoxicated. If the last bar they enter serves the last drink to someone who then causes a car accident, it’s likely the victim can hold the bartender accountable.  

Who Does the Dram Shop Liability Law Apply To? 

Two types of parties with exposure to liability are addressed in Colorado’s dram shop law.  

Establishments that serve or sell alcohol are subject to the law. That would include bars, restaurants, and liquor and grocery stores that sell alcohol.  

The second potential party is individuals who knowingly serve alcohol to those under the age of 21 or allow them to drink on their property. There is no legal exposure to liability of social hosts for serving the alcohol that resulted in an accident to guests over the age of 21.  

How Much Time Do I Have to File a Liability Claim? 

Colorado’s statute of limitations for personal injury claims resulting from auto accidents is three years from the date of the accident. However, filing a civil action under the state’s dram shop law for liability for a drunk driving accident must be done within one year of the accident.  

The brief statute of limitations, coupled with the extremely high threshold for proving liability, makes these cases extremely challenging, so work with a personal injury attorney with experience in investigating, proving, and litigating dram shop liability cases.  

What Types of Damages Are Recoverable? 

In a dram shop liability claim, you can recover damages for such things as medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering, as is the case in any personal injury claim. However, Colorado’s dram shop liability law caps the sum you can recover at $150,000.  

Experienced Guidance Every Step of the Way 

Dram shop liability claims are difficult to prove, but at Downs, McDonough, Cowan & Foley, LLC, we welcome the challenge. If the party that served or allowed underage individuals to consume alcohol or served someone obviously intoxicated who later causes an accident, we want to help you hold them accountable. We have prevailed for clients in and around Durango, Colorado, before, and we are committed to continuing to do so.  

Call Downs, McDonough, Cowan & Foley, LLC now to schedule a free case consultation to discuss your personal injury and dram shop liability claims.