Injured by a Drunk Driver? What the Illinois Dram Shop Act Means for You
If you’re injured by a drunk driver, can you sue the bar that served him or her? Normally, when you file a personal injury lawsuit in Illinois, you’re limited to the person or persons who directly caused your injury. However, in some cases, the law allows you to hold another person or persons responsible even though their contribution to your harm was only indirect.
One statute that operates in that way is the Dram Shop Act, section 6-21 of the Liquor Control Act of 1934. Under the Dram Shop Act, certain people who contributed to the intoxication of a person who went on to cause injury or property damage are made liable along with that person—at least, to an extent. This post explains how the Dram Shop Act works in more detail.
The Dram Shop Act subjects several types of people to liability for property damage or personal injury caused by an intoxicated person within the state of Illinois:
- A licensed alcohol seller whose provision of alcohol caused the person’s intoxication.
- If the intoxicated person is under 21 years old, then any person at least 21 years old who paid for any hotel or motel room or facility where the minor became intoxicated, if the person 21 or older knew that the room or facility would be used for the unlawful underage consumption of alcohol.
- Anyone who owns, rents, leases, or permits the occupation of any building or premises with knowledge that alcohol will be sold there, or who knowingly permits alcohol to be sold there, is liable jointly and severally with the person providing alcohol if that provision causes the intoxicated person’s intoxication.
In addition to liability for damages, a person who leases property where alcohol is unlawfully given or sold forfeits his or her rights under the lease.
For obvious reasons, the intoxicated person him- or herself cannot recover under the Dram Shop Act.
Types of Injuries for Which Recovery is Available
In general, a person can sue under the Dram Shop Act for each of the following types of damages:
- Personal injury, including medical expenses and damages for pain and suffering;
- Property damage; and
- Either loss of society (which refers to the mutual benefits that each family member receives from the other’s continued existence, including love, affection, care, attention, companionship, comfort, guidance, and protection) or loss of support (e.g., lost wages that were actually used to support the plaintiff), but not both.
Limits on Damages
In 1998, the Dram Shop Act was amended to limit damages in cases brought under the Act to $45,000 for personal injury or property damage and $55,000 for loss of society or loss of support. However, the Act was also amended to provide for annual adjustments of those amounts based on inflation.
For 2018, those limits are $68,777.44 for personal injury or property damage, and $84,061.32 for loss of society or loss of support.
Importantly, a person who has suffered each type of injury recognized under the Act can recover the limits for them all. That is, during 2018, a person who can prove sufficient damages can recover up to $68,777.44 for his or her personal injuries, up to another $68,777.44 for property damage, and up to $84,061.32 for loss of society or loss of support.
Statute of Limitations
The statute of limitations under the Dram Shop Act is shorter than the general statute of limitations for personal injury lawsuits. Normally, a person has up to two years after being injured to sue the person who injured him or her—and that two-year period still applies to the intoxicated person who directly causes another’s injuries. However, for anyone whose liability is provided for only under the Dram Shop Act, the statute of limitations is just one year.
Contact Costa Ivone for a Free Evaluation
If you or a loved one has been injured by a drunk driver (or by anyone who is intoxicated, whether driving or not), contact the experienced personal injury lawyers of Costa Ivone today for a free evaluation. We can help you understand how the Dram Shop Act can work for you to provide the greatest possible recovery.