What Is Dram Shop Liability in Illinois?

November 22, 2023 | David Abels
What Is Dram Shop Liability in Illinois?

Despite the constant warnings that people receive about drinking and driving, many individuals still choose to get behind the wheel of their vehicle while legally intoxicated. Drivers of passenger vehicles are legally intoxicated if breath or chemical testing reveals their blood alcohol concentration, or BAC, at 0.08 percent or more.

The BAC cutoffs for commercial vehicle operators and drivers who are twenty-one years old are significantly lower. For example, a legally intoxicated commercial driver’s BAC meets or exceeds 0.04 percent. Similarly, a zero-tolerance policy applies to drivers under 21 years old.

Drunk driving is serious because it slows a driver's reflexes and reaction time, often preventing them from stopping their vehicle in time to avoid a crash. Additionally, drunk drivers may experience blurred vision, nausea, and dizziness, which may prevent them from noticing another vehicle or pedestrian nearby.

What Is Dram Shop Liability in Illinois

In Illinois, you can hold bars, restaurants, and other establishments responsible if they serve an already visibly intoxicated patron more alcohol, and the patron causes an accident in which other individuals sustain injuries.

If you recently suffered injuries in a drunk driving collision, you may recover monetary damages for all of your accident-related losses. In addition to seeking proper medical treatment after your accident, contact a skilled car accident attorney in Chicago, IL who can discuss your accident circumstances and explore your various legal options.

For example, your attorney can determine if you may file a claim or lawsuit against a commercial establishment, in addition to the drunk driver, to recover more monetary compensation for your accident-related losses.

After filing a claim or lawsuit in your case, your attorney can handle all settlement negotiations with insurance company representatives and pursue a favorable settlement offer from them. Furthermore, if the insurance company does not compensate you fairly for your injuries, you can file a lawsuit and litigate your case in the state court system.

Your attorney can represent you at every stage of the legal proceedings, including in court, to maximize the monetary award you receive for your injuries and other damages.

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Types of Auto Accidents that Drunk Drivers May Cause

A driver operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated may cause serious accidents that leave other individuals with debilitating and sometimes permanent injuries.

Common accidents that result from drunk driving include:

  • Broadside or T-bone accidents, usually where another driver fails to yield the right-of-way to traffic on an intersecting road by running a red light or stop sign
  • Rear-end accidents, where a drunk driver's vehicle negligently hits the rear of another vehicle
  • Head-on accidents, where a drunk driver negligently causes their vehicle to veer across a concrete median barrier or center double line, striking the front of an oncoming vehicle and causing permanent injuries or fatalities
  • Sideswipe accidents, where a drunk driver weaves in and out of their travel lane (or across several travel lanes), negligently striking the side of another vehicle

Upon suffering injuries in any of these types of drunk driving accidents, speak with an experienced Chicago personal injury attorney as quickly as possible.

Your lawyer can review your case with you and determine if you may file a claim against a restaurant, bar, or other commercial establishment that served the driver alcohol before the accident. Your attorney can then take the legal action necessary to maximize the monetary damages you receive for your injuries.

What Injuries Do Victims of Drunk Driving Accidents Frequently Suffer?

Drunk driving accidents frequently happen with a significant amount of force. As a result, drivers and passengers in a vehicle may suffer extremely serious injuries. The more forceful a drunk driving accident, the higher the chances that an accident victim will suffer permanent or debilitating injuries.

When an accident victim suffers a permanent injury in their accident, they may experience long-term or lifelong complications, including chronic pain and suffering from their injuries.

Some of the most common injuries that victims of drunk driving accidents may suffer include bruises from seatbelts or airbag deployment, internal organ damage, paralysis, internal bleeding, spinal cord injuries, bone fractures, rib fractures, soft tissue muscular contusions, open lacerations, facial injuries, mouth and teeth injuries, eye injuries, traumatic head injuries, cognitive impairments, and death.

To increase your chances of fully recovering from your accident-related injuries, you need to seek the medical treatment you need as quickly as possible after your accident.

Also, after consulting an emergency room medical provider, follow through on all treatment recommendations, including undergoing any medical procedures, attending physical therapy sessions, or consulting a medical specialist, such as a neurologist or orthopedist.

While you focus on attending medical appointments and obtaining the medical treatment you need, your attorney can handle your legal case.

For example, your lawyer may gather medical documentation on your behalf and assemble all this documentation into a settlement demand package for the insurance company to review. After submitting your settlement demand package, negotiations may begin, during which time your lawyer can aggressively advocate on your behalf.

Illinois Dram Shop Liability

The Illinois Dram Shop Act regulates alcohol sales and service in commercial establishments, including clubs, bars, restaurants, and other places that regularly serve alcoholic beverages.

Under the act, you can hold a commercial establishment liable for the damages, losses, and injuries you suffer when the establishment serves alcoholic beverages to a visibly intoxicated individual.

Also, under various provisions of the act, you can hold a commercial establishment such as a bar or restaurant civilly responsible if they serve an alcoholic drink to someone younger than 21. If the minor then causes an accident that leads to damages or injuries as a direct result of their intoxication, you can hold the establishment responsible.

Finally, according to the act, victims of accidents may recover a maximum of $75,000 in monetary compensation from the negligent commercial establishment.

If you suffered injuries in a drunk driving accident, your attorney can investigate the accident circumstances and determine if the Illinois Dram Shop Act's relevant provisions may apply. If so, your attorney can file a legal claim against the commercial establishment and/or against the drunk driver who caused your accident.

After filing a claim or claims on your behalf, your lawyer can aggressively negotiate with insurance company representatives to pursue the monetary recovery you need for your injuries.

Accidents that Drunk Drivers May Cause

A personal injury lawyer can handle every step of the claims filing process after a drunk driving accident. When filing a claim against a drunk driver, commercial establishment, or insurance company, a lawyer must submit a settlement demand letter and a complete settlement demand package.

A settlement demand letter makes a demand for monetary compensation within the limits of the applicable insurance policy. Your attorney will first consult you about the amount of compensation to request from the insurance company in a settlement letter.

In addition, your lawyer will gather various documents on your behalf, including copies of police reports, witness statements, photographs of the accident scene, injury photographs, video camera footage (if any), medical bills, medical treatment records, and lost-wage documentation (if you are claiming lost earnings).

If the at-fault drunk driver and/or commercial establishment accepts fault, then your lawyer can begin negotiating settlement compensation for you. Often, these negotiations take time because insurance companies are not in a hurry to offer you significant monetary damages to settle your case. Rather, insurance companies will try to settle your claim for as little money as possible.

Your attorney can aggressively negotiate on your behalf by pointing to police reports, expert investigations, and favorable medical records in support of your claim. Suppose the insurance company still does not offer a fair settlement. In that case, your lawyer can file a personal injury lawsuit in court for your deserved compensation.

Litigating a Drunk Driving Accident Case in Court

Litigation in a drunk driving accident case begins when a personal injury lawyer files a lawsuit against all potentially responsible parties in court. In some cases, one of those parties may have served the drunk driver alcohol before the collision.

During litigation, the parties will complete discovery, at which time they will answer written interrogatories and submit to discovery depositions. During a deposition, the defense attorney may ask the accident victim questions about how the accident occurred, the injuries they suffered, the medical treatment they underwent, and how the accident has affected their well-being.

Also, during discovery, your lawyer can note the discovery deposition of the commercial establishment's representative. As part of that deposition, your attorney may ask about the number of drinks the establishment served the at-fault driver and the extent to which the driver was already intoxicated.

Furthermore, parties may attend one or more settlement conferences with the court during litigation. If the case does not resolve during the litigation process, the parties may take it to a civil jury trial for adjudication.

The jury will listen to the evidence and determine the amount of monetary damages to award the injured accident victim. Instead of taking a case to a civil jury trial, the parties may consider alternative dispute resolution, such as binding arbitration.

At an arbitration proceeding, a neutral arbitrator will listen to the evidence out of court and decide monetary compensation and damages.

Your attorney can weigh various litigation options for you and determine the best option for your case.

Recovering the Monetary Damages That You Deserve in Your Drunk Driving Accident Case

In a drunk driving accident case, accident victims may be eligible to recover various types of compensation for their injuries and other losses. The total monetary damage award that a drunk driving accident victim receives will usually depend upon the total cost of their medical treatment and the nature, extent, and severity of their injuries.

Generally, the more costly an accident victim's medical treatment and the more severe their injuries, the higher the compensation they are eligible to receive.

First, victims of drunk driving accidents can recover compensation for the related medical expenses, both past and anticipated. If the accident victim may need to incur medical expenses in the future, such as for physical therapy or a medical procedure, then the accident victim may recover their anticipated medical costs. 

Similarly, if the accident victim can not work after their accident due to their injuries, they can bring a claim for lost earnings. If their injuries were so severe that they cannot continue with their former employment and had to take a pay cut, they may be eligible for loss of earning capacity damages.

In addition to these out-of-pocket losses, accident victims can pursue compensation for their intangible losses. Those damages compensate accident victims for their mental distress, loss of spousal consortium, pain and suffering, lost quality of life, inconvenience, loss of the ability to use a body part, long-term or lifetime care costs, and permanent disfigurement or disability.

Your drunk driving accident lawyer can determine which of these damages you might be eligible to receive in your case and give you an estimate as to your case's likely settlement or verdict value.

Speak with a Knowledgeable Car Accident Lawyer in Your Area Today

If you sustained injuries in a drunk driving accident, you may recover compensation from the drunk driver's insurance company and a commercial establishment's dram shop insurance policy. 

Your lawyer can evaluate your potential legal options and file a necessary claim on your behalf. Additionally, your attorney can aggressively negotiate with the insurance company or file a timely lawsuit if the insurance company will not take your case seriously.

Since accident victims have only two years from their accident date to file a lawsuit, time is of the essence. A skilled car accident attorney can enter an appearance on your behalf, file a timely claim or lawsuit in your case, and pursue the maximum amount of monetary recovery you need for your injuries.

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David Abels


David Abels has carved a niche for himself in the personal injury law sector, dedicating a substantial part of his career since 1997 to representing victims of various accidents. With a law practice that spans over two decades, his expertise has been consistently recognized within the legal community.

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