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Can a Bar Be Held Liable for a Drunk Driving Accident in Louisiana?

Published on Jan 27, 2023 at 11:10 pm in Car Accident.

Can a Bar Be Held Liable for a Drunk Driving Accident in Louisiana?

A drunk driver struck you one night on your way home from work, a club or bar, or a night out with your friends. Now you’re left with serious injuries, such as spinal cord damage or a bone fracture or compression injury that resulted in an amputation. Maybe you even lost your beloved family member way too soon in a drunk-driving-related crash, as happened to a 19-year-old Louisiana State University (LSU) student here in Baton Rouge earlier this month.

It’s understandable that you would want to hold the intoxicated motorist who caused your catastrophic injuries or loved one’s wrongful death accountable for their actions. Fortunately, Louisiana law allows car accident victims to file civil personal injury lawsuits to hold negligent drivers liable for their actions whether prosecutors file criminal charges against them or not. But what about other potential defendants you may be able to sue, like the bar that served the drunk driver who caused your crash?

If you’re interested in tapping into all sources of compensation to cover what are assuredly significant losses you’ve sustained attributable to your alcohol-involved crash in Baton Rouge, we’ll explore whether a bar can be held liable for a drunk driving accident in Louisiana at continuum.

What To Know About Dram Shop Laws in Louisiana

In many jurisdictions throughout the U.S., there are dram shop laws on the books which allow victims of proven intoxicated motorists to file third-party claims against bars, nightclubs, and other commercial establishments that served alcoholic beverages to individuals deemed responsible for causing drunk driving crashes.

Louisiana Revised Statutes (RS) 9:2800.1 clarifies how Louisiana does not have a dram shop law that functions like many other states. It prohibits an offsite personal injury victim, such as a car accident one, from filing a third-party lawsuit against a business that served alcohol, provided that the person who was served the alcohol was of legal drinking age.

There are two important exceptions to this rule, where the protections from third-party lawsuits do not apply. Those situations are:

  • RS 9:2800.1 does not extend the same protections to business entities that serve alcoholic beverages to anyone not lawfully entitled to drink
  • This same Louisiana statute does not protect businesses that serve beverages to consumers without them knowing they contain alcohol

The conditions above apply whether the personal injury incident merely resulted in property damage or caused injuries or wrongful death.

Are There Social Host Liability Laws in Louisiana?

As we all know, alcohol isn’t always served at bars, but instead at house parties, for example. In those cases, the person offering their residence or another property and the alcohol is referred to as a social host as it’s unlikely that they’re licensed to sell those beverages. You may be curious as to what Louisiana law says about the responsibility a party’s host bears if one of their guests, for example, causes an accident on their way home, leaving someone injured or dead.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise, given the limited ability for personal injury victims to pursue third-party businesses for a customer’s actions while intoxicated, as described above, that social host liability laws are also virtually non-existent in Louisiana. RS 9:2800.1 also specifies how social hosts aren’t responsible for the actions that lawfully-aged drinkers commit away from their property.

However, the same exceptions apply to social hosts that apply to businesses. If someone younger than 21 causes the injury or fatal accident or anyone who wasn’t aware that what they were drinking contained alcohol, then the victim or their personal representative (if the victim is deceased) may be entitled to file a third-party claim against the social host.

What Damages Are You Entitled to if Eligible To File a Personal Injury Lawsuit?

Individuals who are eligible to file a personal injury lawsuit stemming from their alcohol-involved accident can generally seek compensation to pay for the following damages:

  • Property damage
  • Medical expenses, including surgery, physical therapy, counseling, and more
  • Any future medical costs, such as ones associated with around-the-clock caregiving
  • Lost wages and any potential future lost earnings, especially if you have a permanent disability that inhibits your ability to work
  • Pain and suffering
  • Loss of enjoyment of life or consortium
  • Mental anguish

An additional recoverable loss that plaintiffs filing a wrongful death lawsuit may claim is funeral and burial expenses.

Statutes of Limitations Applicable to Alcohol-Involved Personal Injury Cases

Personal injury victims have a very small window of time to file suit for the harm they suffered due to a third party’s negligence in serving alcohol to a perpetrator of an injury incident. Louisiana Civil Code section 3492 gives victims one year to file a claim to recover compensation for the above-referenced damages. That state statute specifies exceptions to this rule, including when victims are minors.

How Car Accident Lawyers Help in Personal Injury Cases With Multiple Potential Defendants

In most cases, car accident victims would only be able to go after the person who actually struck them, causing their injuries or loved one’s death. However, there are a few instances, like in the case of a drunk driver, where other parties can also be held liable.

Louisiana’s statute of limitations requires victims to move forward expeditiously in filing personal injury claims anyways, but when there’s the potential of a second defendant, like a bar or social host, being added to the case, it’s even more important to be aggressive in building and filing a case. Why, you ask? It has to do with preserving critical evidence that can aid in proving liability in the case, like photographic or video evidence or securing witness testimony—both of which may disappear or become “fuzzy” in minds with the passing of time.

Our Baton Rouge personal injury legal team at Bianca | Matkins is committed to holding all possible defendants liable for their role in causing you harm to ensure you receive the maximum compensation you require for optimal recovery. Reach out to our law firm for a no-risk free consultation to discuss whether you can hold a bar liable for your Louisiana crash and what your respective rights are.

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