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Can Florida bars be held liable for drunk driving deaths?

Did a drunk driver cause you serious injury? Did a loved one perish due to a drunk driver's actions? It's a far-too-common scenario out there on the roads. Someone stops for a drink on the way home from work, and one drink turns into three or four before they stumble out the door and get behind the wheel again.

The drunk driver is certainly responsible for their own actions. However, many people feel that the bar, brewery or host that served that drunk driver should also bear at least some responsibility for the accident as well.

In many states, the victims of drunk drivers often have a fairly broad right to look past the insurance coverage (if any) provided by the drunk driver and hold the "dram" shop (like a bar or brewery) or a social host responsible for over-serving a guest who goes on to cause a drunk driving accident.

Florida, however, is not one of those states. There are only very limited circumstances in Florida in which a person or establishment who gives or sells alcohol to another can be held liable for a drunk driver's actions. A bar can, for example, serve someone who is visibly intoxicated without necessarily incurring any liability if that person goes out and causes an accident.

Under Florida law, a bar or host can only be held liable for an accident caused by a drunk driver if the person they served was either a minor or "habitually addicted" to alcohol (and the bar or host was aware of the person's addiction).

That makes it tough to prove that a bar or social host should bear responsibility for a serious accident or wrongful death caused by a drunk driver -- but not impossible. An experienced attorney can often find evidence that an establishment or host knew that a "regular" was a problem drinker -- and that opens the door to legal liability.

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Wieland & DeLattre
226 Hillcrest St.
P.O. Box 944
Orlando, FL 32802

Phone: 407-841-7699
Phone: 321-639-4777
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