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Washington State Dram Shop Laws

Colburn Law

Washington State Dram Shop Laws

Drinking and driving is extremely dangerous. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 55% of drivers involved in motor vehicle fatalities between midnight to 3am were under the influence of alcohol. More than 10,000 people die from drunk driving crashes each year — approximately one person every 50 minutes.

These statistics suggest many drunk drivers are often driving home from a social event or an establishment where they purchased liquor. To prevent bars, restaurants, and other licensed establishments from serving too much alcohol to patrons, Washington enforces strict dram shop laws. For more information on dram shop lawsuits, contact our Seattle dram shop lawyers today for a free case evaluation and consultation.

What Are Washington’s Dram Shop Laws?

Washington state law RCW 66.44.200 states that a person cannot sell liquor to a person who appears to be under the influence of alcohol. In addition, a person who appears to be under the influence cannot purchase or consume alcohol on the premises of an establishment that the state licenses to sell alcohol.

Dram shop laws hold multiple purposes. First, they prevent customers who are over-intoxicated from drinking too much, which may lead to severe injuries or even death due to alcohol poisoning. Second, these laws prevent establishments from serving alcohol to already-inebriated customers who may get behind the wheel and drive home. Drinking and driving not only puts the customer at risk of injury or death, but innocent drivers, pedestrians, and cyclists as well.

How Can You Tell If Someone Is Under the Influence?

Bars, restaurants, and other establishments licensed to sell alcohol must properly train their employees to properly identify an over-intoxicated person. Bartenders often look for the following signs when deciding whether to sell alcohol to a customer.

  • Difficulty maintaining balance
  • Overly aggressive behavior
  • Emotional outbursts
  • Obnoxious or profane behavior
  • Slurred or slow speech
  • Difficulty enacting basic motor skills
  • Difficulty standing or sitting upright
  • Eyes that are red or watery

Dangers of Dram Shop Law Violations

If a licensed establishment sells alcohol to a customer who is clearly displaying signs of intoxication, dangerous events can occur. The customer can easily drink to the point of developing alcohol poisoning or losing complete awareness over his or her behavior, which can lead to risky and injurious decisions. The customer may also decide to drive home, even when it is obviously dangerous to do so.

Establishments who violate dram shop laws may be liable if the intoxicated customer injures or kills another person in a drunk driving accident. Victims of these accidents can hold the bar liable for the damages they suffered, which may include medical expenses, lost wages, property damage, and emotional and physical trauma.

Filing a Dram Shop Lawsuit After a DUI Accident in Seattle

Suffering injuries due to a drunk driver can be a devastating experience. However, you can legally hold both the driver and the establishment that over-served him or her liable for your injuries in a lawsuit. However, dram shop lawsuits are more complex than the typical car accident claim; these accidents require significant investigation and evidence to establish that the establishment did in fact violate dram shop laws.

If you plan to pursue a dram shop lawsuit, hire a Seattle car accident attorney to represent your case. Your lawyer can evaluate your claim and determine if you have grounds for a dram shop lawsuit and can utilize his or her resources to launch a comprehensive investigation into your accident. After seeking medical attention for your injuries, contact your lawyer as soon as possible.