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We are a San Diego personal injury law firm with a strong business dispute litigation department. We specialize in personal injury, wrongful death, eminent domain, condemnation, construction defects, medical malpractice and other ar…

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Car Accident Blog Post

Are Bars and Restaurants Liable for Drunk Driving Accidents in California?

There are 28 people killed in car accidents involving drunk drivers every day throughout the United States. Tougher DUI penalties, wider use of sobriety checkpoints and extensive public education campaigns have contributed to a declining number of drunken driving fatalities. Nonetheless, statistics revealed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation reveal that more than 1.41 million people were arrested in 2010 for driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Even more disconcerting, a third of all drivers that are arrested for DUI have prior drunken driving convictions.

DUI injury accidents may justify punitive damages

While the criminal court system may impose criminal penalties for DUI causing injury or vehicular manslaughter, a civil judgment is required to obtain financial recovery for medical bills, lost wages, vehicle repair, pain and suffering, and other forms of compensatory damages. If the driver that causes a collision drives unsafely or violates a driving safety law because he or she is under the influence of alcohol, the court may also impose punitive damages to punish the drunken driver for his reckless driving. Punitive damages serve both to impose a financial penalty on the driver and to discourage similar unsafe driving behavior in the future.

Dram shop liability in San Diego DUI accident lawsuits

A bar, restaurant or other retail establishment can also be liable for damages to the victim of a drunk driver, which is referred to as dram shop liability. California law recently changed providing more limited dram shop liability than in many other states. California law does not impose liability on a business establishment that serves alcohol to someone who is obviously intoxicated. The reasoning behind this limitation is that California considers those who drink alcohol rather than those who sell alcohol as the cause of DUI injury accidents. Dram shop liability may still be imposed where a bar or restaurant serves alcohol to an obviously intoxicated minor.

Many drivers who cause drunken driving accidents have no insurance because their license has been suspended. This makes it essential to consider other defendants, such as:

  • Businesses providing alcohol to obviously intoxicated minors
  • Public entities for failure to design or maintain safe roads
  • Vehicle manufacturers for product defects
  • An accident victim’s own UM/UIM coverage

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Thorsnes Bartolotta McGuire
2550 Fifth Avenue, 11th Floor
San Diego, California, 92103-6612 USA