What is the Dram Shop Act in Indiana?

Drunk driver in the dram shop reaching his car keys.

If you get hurt in an alcohol-related accident in Indiana, the Dram Shop Act allows you to hold certain parties responsible besides the intoxicated person. In some cases, you could have claims against the drunk person who hurt you and other parties that sold or served them alcohol before the crash.

A knowledgeable lawyer from Truitt Law Offices can help you seek compensation after a drunk driving accident by identifying all negligent parties, including businesses that supplied alcohol to the at-fault driver. Our legal team has been helping Indiana individuals and families recover from severe injuries and devastating losses for over 40 years. We know DUI accidents can result in life-changing injuries. Our job is to hold every responsible party accountable for what happened to you.

To learn more about your legal options, please read on or contact our firm for a free initial consultation.

Does the Dram Shop Law Apply Only to Businesses That Serve Alcohol?

No. The Indiana Dram Shop Act applies to any party that serves alcohol, whether a private individual or a commercial establishment. Under the Act, anyone who knowingly provides alcohol to an intoxicated person can be held responsible if the drunk person causes an accident that injures or kills another.

Potentially liable parties under the Dram Shop Act include those who own or control restaurants, liquor stores, bars, or convenience stores that sell alcohol. People who serve alcohol to others at private events, such as at company gatherings or a dinner party at home, may be liable according to Indiana dram shop laws.

To hold an alcohol vendor or server liable in a dram shop liability claim, you must show they knew (or should have known) the person who harmed you was intoxicated at the time of sale or service. You can do so by showing there was visible evidence of intoxication, such as bloodshot eyes, slurred speech, unsteady walking, or the smell of alcohol on the breath.

Are There Certain Elements That Need to Be Proven for a Dram Shop Law Claim?

Yes. You must prove two key elements for a successful dram shop claim in Indiana. First, you must show that the establishment or social host knowingly furnished alcohol to a visibly intoxicated person. Then you’ll need to prove that the intoxication of the person who was given the alcohol contributed to your injuries.

Let’s say a host of a house party sees someone is intoxicated yet continues to serve them alcoholic beverages. After leaving the party, the guest causes a drunk driving accident that injures someone else. In that case, you would need to prove the host knew their guest was dangerously drunk when serving them and that the guest’s intoxication was a proximate cause of your injuries.

Can the Intoxicated Person Also File a Dram Shop Law Claim?

No. If someone 21 or older gets hurt while voluntarily intoxicated, they cannot bring a claim against the social host or commercial establishment that served them. Similarly, if a voluntarily intoxicated adult dies after being served alcohol, their surviving dependents, personal representative, and heirs are prohibited from filing dram shop liability claims.

Can I File Both a Personal Injury Claim and a Dram Shop Liability Claim?

Yes. You can file a personal injury claim against a drunk individual who hurts you in a DUI accident. You can also file a claim under the Dram Shop Act against an individual or establishment that provided the alcohol to the individual who harmed you.

To bring a successful claim under the Dram Shop Act, you must establish that the individual that supplied the alcohol — whether a bartender at a restaurant or the host of a dinner party — served the drunk person even though they were visibly intoxicated. You also need to prove that the other person’s preventable and dangerous level of intoxication directly contributed to your injuries.

Here’s a real-world example: John joins his friends for happy hour at a bar after work. During that time, the bartender serves him 10 cocktails, even though John is staggering around and slurring his words. Later, John drives home and causes a drunk driving accident that injures Ashley. In that case, Ashley could file a personal injury claim directly against John and a dram shop lawsuit against that bar that overserved him.

Because you must satisfy certain elements to have a valid claim under the Dram Shop Act, you should always work with a trusted lawyer who can analyze the circumstances of the accident and develop your case. Your attorney will gather compelling evidence by reviewing police reports, obtaining toxicology test results, and speaking to witnesses who saw you get hurt.

Statute of limitation book with gavel on the side.

Is There a Time Limit for Filing a Dram Shop Law Lawsuit?

Dram shop liability lawsuits are subject to a two-year time limit. The clock starts running on the date of the accident. If you try to file your claim after the deadline, you lose the right to compensation altogether. Two years might sound like plenty of time, but it takes time to investigate the specifics of your case, gather and preserve evidence, interview witnesses, and prepare a lawsuit. The sooner you consult a dram shop lawyer in Indiana, the more time they’ll have to fine-tune your case and demand full and fair compensation for your losses.

Contact an Indiana Car Accident Lawyer

If you got hurt in a DUI accident or another incident involving a dangerously intoxicated individual, the Indiana injury lawyers at Truitt Law Offices are here to help you fight for maximum compensation from the responsible party(s). We will examine every aspect of your situation and determine whether the Dram Shop Act applies to you.

You deserve accountability from the drunk driver and the people who enabled them. Contact us today to speak with a skilled car accident lawyer.

Visit Our Car Accident Law Offices

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About the Author

As an attorney who has practiced law in Northeast Indiana for nearly four decades, Richard Truitt has seen many changes in the way personal injury and wrongful death cases are handled. However, at least one aspect of his work has remained the same. “You always have to listen to your clients, and you have…