Are Bars in Rhode Island Liable When an Over-Served Individual Causes an Accident?

inside view of a bar

Irresponsibly serving alcohol leads to customer overconsumption, which can then lead to property damage and injuries. In Rhode Island, you can sue someone who causes harm while intoxicated. You can also take legal action against the bar or restaurant that served them.

Dram shop laws hold establishments responsible for serving alcohol to people who are visibly intoxicated or under the legal drinking age of 21.

You deserve justice if you have been harmed when someone else served alcohol irresponsibly. Contact Marasco & Nesselbush now for the best legal results, and let our team of knowledgeable attorneys take over the fight for justice in these trying times.

What Is Rhode Island’s Dram Shop Law?

The Liquor Liability Act is Rhode Island’s dram shop law, establishing a civil action for those who suffer alcohol-related harm. The statute serves two express purposes. Primarily, it aims to prevent injuries, deaths, and damages from intoxication. Its secondary purpose is threefold:

  • To provide a legal framework for those harmed to receive just compensation
  • Allocate compensation fairly among responsible parties
  • To encourage the responsible serving of alcohol

According to the act, an establishment that negligently or recklessly serves liquor to a minor or visibly intoxicated person is liable for the damages resulting from the consumption of that liquor.

An establishment is said to be negligent when it knows, or if a reasonable person in comparable situations would know, that the person served is a minor or is visibly intoxicated. If no one asks a minor for ID, and the minor goes on to harm someone because of the liquor, the law presumes negligence on the establishment’s part.

Conversely, the law deems an establishment reckless if it intentionally serves alcohol to a person despite knowing that they are a minor or are already visibly intoxicated, consciously disregarding the risk of harmful consequences.

Per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Rhode Island’s dram shop laws have no major limitations, such as state-specific caps on liability, and help reduce alcohol-related harm, including the number of motor vehicle accident fatalities.

Who Can Be Held Liable Under Rhode Island Dram Shop Laws?

The Rhode Island Liquor Liability Act allows you to sue any commercial establishment with a retail liquor license and its employees and agents. You can also sue the establishment if it should have had a liquor license but didn’t. This includes bars and restaurants with expired permits.

Notably, the Liquor Liability Act only applies to retail licensees and won’t come into play if someone overserves at their home or a private party.

However, that scenario is covered by another legal concept called “social host liability,” which is when a person is served liquor at someone’s home or party and causes a motor vehicle accident or other harm. Under the Rhode Island social host law, you might get to sue the party host if they over-served a guest.

In Rhode Island, social host liability generally only applies when a host serves alcohol to a minor. However, Rhode Island courts have recognized that there may be some liability when a “special relationship” exists between a host and guest who causes harm after drinking alcohol.

Contact us now if you were hurt because of another person’s intoxication. Our team of Rhode Island dram shop lawyers is vastly experienced with liquor liability cases and can get you the fair results you deserve.

What Damages Are Available Under Rhode Island’s Dram Shop Laws?

Though money can’t make up for the suffering of people hurt in drunk driving accidents, you can recover substantial damages for dram shop cases in Rhode Island.

For example, the Twin River Casino was found liable in 2016 for serving a visibly intoxicated teen who caused a car accident that left a passenger paralyzed. Under the laws of Rhode Island, the affected person was awarded $23 million.

You might receive compensation for the following damages:

  • Economic damages that compensate for quantifiable losses, such as medical bills, health care costs, and lost income
  • Non-economic damages that compensate for difficult-to-quantify losses like pain and emotional distress

In addition, a court may also award punitive damages. These, by definition, are designed to punish extremely egregious behavior. In Rhode Island, reckless liquor service makes an establishment liable for punitive damages.

Examples of Dram Shop Liability

People generally think dram shop liability only applies to car crashes. Although that is one kind of harm that may come from intoxication, there are other kinds one can cause when drunk.

Rhode Island’s Liquor Liability Act also covers damages approximately caused by the individual’s consumption of liquor. Examples of such damages include:

  • Drunk driving accidents
  • Assault of individuals
  • Property damage

Some of the people who experience harm because of intoxication may therefore include:

  • Vehicle passengers
  • Other drivers
  • Pedestrians
  • Patrons in clubs, bars, or restaurants
  • Homeowners
  • Business owners
  • Car owners

If you have experienced emotional, physical, or economic loss because of someone else’s drinking, Marasco & Nesselbush is here to help. We can work with you to determine how to right the wrong under Rhode Island’s dram shop liability laws.

Statute of Limitations for Dram Shop Injuries in Rhode Island

The statute of limitations provides the deadline for filing a claim for legal damages. This type of law ensures the evidence is recent enough to make a legal case while protecting potential defendants from indefinite exposure to liability.

Rhode Island’s statute of limitations for dram shop injuries is generally three years from the incident. Therefore, the sooner you talk about your options with a lawyer, the better your chances of securing compensation for what you have lost.

However, you can contact us even if the three-year time limit has passed. We will help you explore options for recovering from this harm and moving forward.

How Can Our Dram Shop Attorneys at Marasco & Nesselbush Help?

We at Marasco & Nesselbush are committed to treating you with dignity, kindness, and compassion. Our Rhode Island dram shop lawyers, with their expertise, will secure the best result for your legal case using hard work, honesty, intelligence, and in-depth knowledge of the law.

If you or a loved one is a victim of another’s alcohol use, we know nothing can fully return what you have lost. But together, we can secure a verdict that allows you and your family to move forward with peace of mind and security while perhaps helping prevent such tragedies from happening to someone else.

Contact us now for a free consultation. We have offices in Warwick, Wakefield, Woonsocket, and Providence and are eager to serve you wherever you are in the state.

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