Some states place alcohol liability squarely on the intoxicated person. In West Virginia, the state recognizes the liability of alcohol sellers in certain cases. You may be able to hold a bar liable for injuries resulting from an accident involving alcohol.
When Bars Are Liable for Alcohol-Related Accidents
Bars are responsible for having reasonable policies. A bartender is acting in accordance with the law if he or she refuses to serve a guest who is excessively intoxicated. Some bars may even impose a drink limit or call law enforcement if a guest leaves the establishment while visibly inebriated. Bar staff who continue to serve patrons who are physically incapacitated after drinking are acting negligently.
If the visibly intoxicated guest then knocks over another patron and causes injury, the injured customer may hold both the bar and the intoxicated guest liable. Bars may also share liability in alcohol-related car accidents. If a physically incapacitated guest gets behind the wheel and causes a serious or fatal drunk driving accident, the courts may rule that the bar contributed to the problem.
For an injured party to prove liability, he or she must prove that the bar played a proximal role in causing the injury. Bars are not typically liable when:
- Guests who are not physically incapacitated engage in violent or negligent behaviors that cause injury
- A guest leaves the premises and continues to drink elsewhere before engaging in violent or negligent behaviors
- The establishment proactively tries to prevent dangerous behaviors by refusing to serve intoxicated guests or calling intoxicated guests a cab or alternative means of transportation
- The establishment could not have reasonably anticipated and prevented the accident
Identifying Alcohol-Related Physical Impairment
In alcohol-related cases involving bars, a plaintiff may need to prove that the defendant was visibly intoxicated to connect an injury with an alcohol-selling establishment. Courts may use different criteria to determine visible impairment, but they generally associate the following recognizable signs with excessive intoxication:
- Slurring words
- Difficulty keeping eyes open
- Stumbling repeatedly
- Uncoordinated movements
- Behaving carelessly or dangerously in a way that might cause injury
A plaintiff may need to secure bar video surveillance and witness accounts to corroborate the claim that the defendant was severely intoxicated before leaving the bar. Bars and restaurants serving alcohol often have attorneys who will fight hard to disprove liability in alcohol-related accidents. An experienced dram shop law attorney can help you understand your legal options and pursue a case against any responsible alcohol sellers.
What to Do After an Accident
Any time you suffer an injury, record the scene around you. If you have a smartphone, take pictures of your injury and the surrounding environment. Talk to witnesses, and ask for contact information. If you’re injured inside a bar, report the injury to the bar manager—but do not accept blame if you are injured inside the bar. What you say to the staff could hurt a future case.
Finding an Attorney for Alcohol-Related Bar Accidents in West Virginia
Alcohol-related accidents are often complex, particularly if an inebriated individual stopped at more than one bar before causing an accident. If you or someone you know suffers a serious injury in an alcohol-related accident, talk to a West Virginia personal injury lawyer about bar liability. Pursuing a case shortly after the incident may improve your ability to collect the evidence needed to secure a fair settlement.
At Tiano O’Dell, PLLC we believe all alcohol-selling establishments should face close scrutiny in certain alcohol-related accidents. As your legal representatives, we will work hard to hold every accountable party liable for your injuries so that you can focus on recovery. If you believe an alcohol selling establishment played a role in your injury, contact us for a free case evaluation.