Dram Shop Liability for Car Accidents in Las Vegas
Drinking and driving poses a serious problem in Las Vegas. With casinos, bars, and restaurants everywhere that are authorized to serve alcohol, Nevada sees some of the highest rates of drinking and driving in the country each year.
If you get into an accident with a drunk driver, who bears liability for that accident and your injuries, and what do you need to do next?
Dram Shop Laws: An Overview
Dram shop laws determine whether a bar or restaurant that serves alcohol to an individual who later goes on to cause serious injury to someone else due to an act of negligence, usually caused by that drunkenness, shares liability for the accident.
Suppose, for example, that Julie goes to the casino and has several drinks. She makes a production out of the fact that she plans to leave within the next few minutes, but has another drink “for the road” anyway. Does the casino, or the bartender who continued to serve her, bear liability if she leaves the casino and gets into an accident, causing serious injuries for the other people involved in the accident?
According to Nevada law, no. Nevada Revised Statute 41.1305 holds that a person or entity that sells or gives an alcoholic beverage to someone at or over the legal drinking age of 21 does not bear liability in a civil lawsuit for any actions taken by that drunken individual.
However, this statute does not apply if a bar, casino, restaurant, or individual knowingly furnishes alcohol to someone under the age of 21. If Gavin goes to the casino and uses a fake ID, and the bartender spots the fake but serves Gavin anyway, the facility may bear liability if Gavin later gets into a serious accident.
Social Responsibility Laws
If businesses and their owners do not bear liability for allowing someone to drink excessively, despite knowing that they plan to drive, what about private hosts? A private entity does have some protections if a guest 21 years of age or over chooses to drink on their property. In general, that entity should not be held liable for the actions of a person over 21 who chooses to drink and drive.
On the other hand, private homeowners should exercise caution when permitting drinking on their property. If a guest under 21 drinks, then gets into an accident while driving, the host may bear some liability for the accident, including liability for damages sustained by the victim and any attorney’s fees or associated legal fees that go along with the accident.
Imagine, for example, that instead of drinking at the casino, Gavin chose to go over to a friend’s house. His friend’s father is drinking and allows each of the teens to have some beer while hanging out together. Gavin chooses to overindulge, but he’s nearing curfew and needs to head home, so he gets behind the wheel despite not having adequate time to let the alcohol work its way out of his system. On the way home, he gets into an accident that results in serious injury for the other people in the vehicle. Since the father served Gavin the alcohol and allowed him to drink in his home, the friend’s father may share liability for any injuries caused in that accident.
Who Bears Liability for Car Accidents Caused by Drunk Drivers in Las Vegas?
Car accidents in Las Vegas cause severe injury to many victims each year. When someone else’s negligence leads to the car accident, the victim may have the right to seek compensation, but who bears liability for that accident?
In most cases, the driver who commits an act of negligence, including choosing to drink and drive, bears primary liability for any actions taken behind the wheel. The victim will need to pursue compensation through that driver’s insurance company.
Drinking and driving claims, however, may lead to additional compensation for the victim in a couple of ways.
1. The court may assign punitive damages.
In Las Vegas, the courts may assign punitive damages to the drunk driver. These damages act as a direct “punishment” against the driver. Instead of being paid by the insurance company, like most of the damages associated with a personal injury claim, punitive damages are paid directly by the drunk driver. These damages may be used by the victim to help cover medical expenses or to manage some of the other costs that may come up following severe drunk driving accident injuries.
2. If the driver was under 21, the individual or entity that served that driver may bear some liability.
Both businesses and private consumers bear a higher degree of liability when it comes to protecting against underage drivers choosing to drink and drive. If an underage driver gets behind the wheel after drinking and causes an accident, the entity that served that driver, whether business or private, may bear liability for the accident and take on some of those damages.
3. If other factors contributed to the accident, an attorney may help identify other liable parties.
An examination of the factors that led or contributed to the accident may, for example, uncover that the driver was on the clock at the time of the accident. An employer who knowingly allows or pushes a drunk driver to get behind the wheel may share liability for the accident. An attorney may also want an evaluation of the vehicle to determine whether mechanical failure contributed to the accident, which could leave the manufacturer or a mechanic that recently worked on the vehicle liable.
Following a serious car accident with a drunk driver, you may have a lot of questions about your legal right to compensation, including how dram shop laws pertain to your particular claim and how they may impact your ability to claim compensation. At Gina Corena & Associates, we work to help our clients understand their legal rights and maximize their compensation. Contact us today at 702-680-1111 to schedule a free consultation about your Las Vegas drunk driving accident and to learn more about your rights.