What is the Dram Shop Law?

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Commonly referred to as the “Dram Shop Law,” the Illinois Dram Shop Act is a law that allows people who have been injured by an intoxicated person to sue the establishment that served them alcohol. Dram shop laws are put in place to help prevent drunk driving accidents, and to hold establishments responsible if they serve alcoholic beverages to minors under legal drinking age or intoxicated customers.

So, what’s a dram shop?

You might be wondering why dram shop laws aren’t called bar laws, saloon laws, or tavern laws. Well, “dram shop” is actually just a really old fashioned way of describing an establishment that would sell alcohol by the dram, or 1/8th of an ounce. So, yes, it’s a bar.

The Dangers of Excessive Alcohol Consumption

Drunk driving accidents and assaults are one of the leading causes of serious and fatal injuries among young adults, and these accidents can leave victims and their families saddled with crippling medical debt and painful injuries for years to come. Fortunately, you may be able to hold taverns and restaurants legally accountable for their actions under Illinois dram shop law.

The experienced personal injury attorneys at The Kryder Law Group, LLC, have represented many individuals who have been harmed by drunk drivers, and we understand the devastation that these accidents can cause. We also know how to investigate these cases and build a strong legal case on your behalf. To learn more about your rights and options after a drunk driving accident, and whether dram shop laws apply, contact us today for a free consultation.


What is the Illinois Dram Shop Act?

What is the Dram Shop Law? Infographic

Victims injured due to a person’s intoxication historically could not recover against taverns over-serving alcohol to visibly intoxicated patrons. Recently, the Illinois legislature passed a statute called the Illinois Dram Shop Act providing an avenue of recovery against tavern operators for injuries caused by an intoxicated person. This dram shop liability means that accident victims of a drunk driver or people who are assaulted by an obviously intoxicated person have another way to get compensatory damages for their injuries. In other words, civil liability is extended to the establishment that served alcohol to the intoxicated person that caused your damages.

Unlike most injury cases, Illinois dram shop law claims do not require plaintiffs to prove negligence. However, only licensed taverns may be named as defendants—private individuals and functions such as house parties, fraternities and sororities, and employers do not apply under the dram shop laws, no matter how much liquor they serve.

To succeed in your Illinois dram shop laws claim, you must present evidence showing that:

  • The defendant is a licensed liquor establishment (such as taverns, bars, or liquor stores)
  • They served or sold the visibly intoxicated person alcoholic beverages – the type of alcohol does not matter and can include beer, wine, cocktails, and hard liquor
  • The intoxicated person became intoxicated by consuming the alcohol
  • That person’s intoxication caused your injuries

If the intoxicated person visited multiple establishments, each of the dram shops (i.e. bars, taverns, restaurants, etc.) may be held liable so long as the establishment served sufficient alcohol to make them intoxicated.


How do I prove my Illinois Dram Shop Act case?

Proving that the intoxicated person was really intoxicated in order for dram shop laws to apply is not an easy feat. For drunk driving accidents, field sobriety tests and blood-alcohol tests of the drunk driver may be utilized.

But what happens when the accident occurred at or near the defendant’s establishment and police testing was not involved? Bar surveillance footage, bar tabs, and bar receipts are critical supporting evidence required to make a valid dram shop case.

Since taverns often overwrite or delete footage and receipts after a set period of time (oftentimes two weeks or even less), it is imperative that you contact your attorney immediately so that they can identify and preserve any evidence before it is gone forever. Without this evidence, there may be no way to prove that your injuries were caused by an intoxicated customer rather than an intoxicated individual who got drunk elsewhere.


What if I was drinking with the intoxicated person?

Unfortunately, your Illinois Dram Shop Act claims are likely barred if you consumed alcohol with the intoxicated person. This is a common occurrence with friends, spouses, and family members under dram shop laws.


What can I recover under the Illinois Dram Shop Act?

The Illinois Dram Shop Act implements statutory caps on the amount and type of damages a person may recover. Unmarried plaintiffs may recover a maximum of $77,787.30 for bodily injuries and property damage. This includes factors such as:

  • Pain and suffering
  • Scarring and disfigurement
  • Automobile and property damage

In addition to bodily injury and property damage, married plaintiffs may also recover up to $95,073.37 for loss of means of support or loss of society (love and affection), and up to $77,787.30 for medical bills. These values are pegged to the Illinois consumer price index and may occasionally change, so you should consult with your attorney about what damages are recoverable in your case.

Additionally, Illinois Dram Shop Act damages stack, so plaintiffs may recover damages over and above that in any parallel personal injury action against the intoxicated person or any other defendants.


What are some examples of Illinois Dram Shop Act cases?

Illinois Dram Shop Act cases arise whenever an intoxicated person is served alcohol by a licensed establishment and that person causes injury. The most common examples include:

  • Drunk driving
  • Assault and battery
  • Shootings
  • Hit and run

Taverns and bars owe their patrons a special duty of care to ensure their safety. Therefore, you may also file a direct action against the tavern for negligent security if the tavern knew or should have known of the intoxicated person’s dangerous propensity and that person assaults you. This is most common where a patron is allowed to bring a weapon into an establishment or where the patron was previously ejected but was allowed back in.

In some instances, it may also be feasible to sue to the intoxicated person. However, they must have sufficient funds to satisfy a judgment. For example, if your injuries were caused by drunk driving, you may be able to recover under the intoxicated person’s automobile insurance policy.


How much time do I have to file a claim under the Illinois Dram Shop Act?

Unlike typical personal injury claims, the statue of limitations states that Illinois Dram Shop Act lawsuits must be filed within one year. Courts will dismiss any defendants if you miss this deadline, so it is critical to speak with your attorney as soon as possible to avoid waiving your right to recovery.


What should I do if I was injured by an intoxicated person?

If you or a loved one was injured by an intoxicated person, the first thing you should do is seek medical attention. Once you have been seen by a doctor, you should contact an experienced personal injury attorney to discuss your claim. The sooner you speak with an attorney, the better chance they will have of preserving evidence and building a strong case on your behalf.

If you have been seriously injured by an intoxicated person and have further questions about whether the Illinois Dram Shop Act applies to your case, please contact our office for a free consultation. The Kryder Law Group, LLC, represents seriously injured accident victims in Chicago and throughout Illinois. We have a proven track record of success in handling personal injury cases and will fight to get you the compensation you deserve.

Call us today to schedule your free consultation.

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