Drunk and impaired driving takes is a scourge on American society. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) analyzed and found: 'Deaths in crashes involving drunk drivers dropped 4.9 percent in 2010, taking 10,228 lives compared to 10,759 in 2009.' Alcohol related crashes injure countless others and create an incredible load on healthcare and limited governmental resources. We needn't go into details and statistics to validate this proposition. We all know someone from our neighborhoods or place of employment whose life has been impacted by injury or death from an alcohol related injury. The question is better framed as 'what is our Legislature doing' to curb this very real and prevalent danger. The answer is actually, very little. For the older segments of our population, the term Dram or Dram shop relates to a barroom or a saloon. It seems fitting that the legislation generally referred to it as a Dram Shop law.
The legislature created Florida Statute 768.125. This Statute regulates and limits the liability of the bar for serving alcohol to a patron who in turn causes injures or death to themselves and or a third party. The cruel irony is that the Statute, rather than try to regulate the subject, in reality it serves to insulate the bar from civil liability to victims with two significant exception. If the facility sold alcohol to a minor who in turn causes injury or death to himself or third parties, the bar owner can be found civilly liable and pay damages to the under-age patron and or his victims. The Statute does not limit the claims for relief to automobile circumstances only.
The second exception is where a jury can be shown that the bar 'knowingly serves a person habitually addicted to the use of any or all alcoholic beverages ...' The burden of proof may be difficult but it is time for the legislature to put some teeth in this Statute so that it can deal with several outstanding issues involving social hosts who serve guests adult beverages.
If you know someone who is the victim of a drunk or impaired driver, they should seek legal counsel with a firm like Gibbs and Parnell who have significant experience with the civil damages side of drunk driving. Gibbs and Parnell are large enough to help, but small enough to care.