A Detailed Look at Dram Shop Laws in Illinois

Monday, September 25, 2017

A Detailed Look at Dram Shop Laws in Illinois

Written by Malman Law, reviewed by Steve J. Malman.

An intoxicated person that causes an injury or damage to a third party is liable for their actions. However, when a bar or restaurant knowingly serves an intoxicated person, then they too could be liable under dram shop laws.

In the state of Illinois, the Dram Shop Act or Liquor Control Act, holds all alcohol-serving establishments accountable for their actions. This includes bars, clubs, and restaurants. They are liable of the actions of not only them serving, but the actions of those they serve.

If you think that you have a potential dram shop liability case, you must speak with an attorney. Only an attorney can help determine if you have a valid claim and bring your case to the court. Dram shop laws are extremely complex, and while we go over them here, these laws are continually changing. Therefore, it is best that you consult with an attorney who has experience handling these types of cases.

What is the Dram Shop Law in Illinois?

Under the Illinois General Statutes, a person injured by a drunk driver can bring a claim against the alcohol vendor that served that driver. The claim can include damages for medical costs, lost wages, property damage, and other personal injury costs. The injured can bring a claim against the individual driving as well as the alcohol vendor.

Unlike other states, Illinois is unique in how they approach their dram shop cases.

The state does not require that the vendor serve the defendant even after they appear intoxicated to be held liable. Instead, it is enough that the vendor supplied the alcohol and the defendant was driving drunk to hold them liable.

The Limits on Dram Shop Liability

While the dram shop laws in Illinois are quite favorable for the plaintiff, there are limitations to these laws. The laws does not allow plaintiffs to bring a claim against social hosts.

Limited Social Host Liability in Illinois

Dram shop laws typically include social host liability, which means if the intoxicated person came from a private party at someone’s house – and not a licensed vendor – that social host could still be liable for the damages caused.

Sadly, social hosts are immune from dram shop cases in the state. There is limited social host liability, but only if the person who was intoxicated was under the legal drinking age. Therefore, if they are younger than 21 years old, and they became intoxicated at a private party, then the host of that party is liable for the injuries and damages.

Can You File a Dram Shop Liability Case?

The Illinois dram shop laws hold commercial establishments responsible for any damages caused by drunk patrons. Like it was stated earlier, these companies do not have to knowingly serve an intoxicated person. Instead, the act of serving alcohol at all can make them liable if that person causes an accident.

While this sounds simple enough, you still must meet the basic requirements of an injury claim – combined with the special circumstances of a dram shop law case – to bring a suit against the vendor.

Proving Your Dram Shop Liability Case in Illinois

To prove your case, you must first establish the four unique elements, which include:

  1. Vendor and Patron Relationship – You must establish the relationship between the defendant and the vendor. That means proving that the vendor was the party who served the defendant alcohol. This can be done by showing credit card receipts, witness statements, and video surveillance.
  2. Causation – You must then show that the defendant was the cause of your injuries and damages. That means proving that they were the party at-fault for the accident. You can do this by witness statements, police reports, and other evidence. If the driver was arrested and charged with drunk driving, it makes proving your case easier too.
  3. Proximate Cause – Next, you must show that the alcohol vendor was the proximate cause of intoxication. Was the defendant drunk? Was his blood alcohol content (BAC) over 0.08 percent?
  4. Intoxication Caused One-Third of Injuries – This is the hardest element of a dram shop law case in Illinois. While the law allows you to bring action against a vendor for serving alcohol and a drunk driver causing your injuries, you must show that the intoxication itself caused at least one-third of your injuries.

Dram Shop Act and Special Provisions

Illinois has special provisions in their dram shop act that allows the state’s laws to apply over state lines. However, these laws are only enforced across state lines where the neighboring state has an act similar enough to ours.

For example, a defendant drank alcohol in an Illinois establishment, then they drove to Kentucky where they caused a drunk driving accident. In this case, the vendor in Illinois would still be liable for the damages if Kentucky’s laws are like the Illinois laws. If Kentucky does not have similar dram shop laws, then the bar in Illinois would not be liable for the injuries caused in Kentucky.

Sadly, most states do not have laws similar enough to Illinois – because most states require that the establishment knowingly serve a person who is obviously intoxicated. Illinois is one of the few states where the law does not require such knowledge; therefore, you will be hard pressed to find a state enforcing similar laws.

How a Personal Injury Attorney Could Help

A personal injury attorney is a vital resource in a case like this. Dram shop laws are complex, and finding the evidence necessary to prove that the driver was intoxicated from his or her drinks at a specific establishment is much harder than you might think.

Hiring an attorney helps you with these types of cases tremendously. Just some benefits to doing so include:

  1. An attorney is well-versed in dram shop laws and personal injury laws. Your case will branch over two sets of laws: personal injury and dram shop. Therefore, you need someone that is well-versed in both sets of statutes, the legislation affecting them, and case law. An attorney that regularly handles personal injury claims or dram shop cases knows these laws and can represent your case more effectively.
  2. Negotiating fair compensation. An attorney can negotiate fair compensation for your case, including coverage for medical costs, lost wages, pain, suffering, loss of companionship, and future costs all associated with your injuries and the accident.
  3. An attorney understands the value of your case. Putting a dollar amount on the damages and suffering you have endured is not easy – and it is hard for any plaintiff to associate their suffering with a monetary value. An attorney can value your injuries without putting any emotional emphasis on the process – ensuring you get fair value for your case.

Tips for Ensuring You Hire the Right Dram Shop Attorney

If you suspect that you have a dram shop case, you want to find the right attorney to represent your claim and get you the compensation you deserve. Therefore, while you are narrowing down your options, consider the following:

  • Years of Experience – Ask the attorney about his or her years of experience specific to dram shop cases and personal injury. Some attorneys do not have as extensive experience in this area of the law, which means they may not have ample case law knowledge or personal experience handling these types of cases in court.
  • Staffing – When you meet with an attorney for a no obligation consultation, you will meet with a lead attorney. While you are there, ask about what other staff members will handle your case, including paralegals, secretaries, or other attorneys in the office. That way you know the team members who will be assigned to your case, can meet them in person, and make sure you feel comfortable with the people you will interact with during your claim.
  • Contingency Fee – Most attorneys that handle personal injury claims use a contingency fee, which means that a percentage of your compensation is taken to pay for the attorney’s time, expertise, and office fees. Every attorney is different; therefore, you may want to find out the percentage, added fees not included, and the cost of a consultation. Also, if your attorney fails and you do not get any recovery – would you still have to pay any costs, or is there no risk to you?

Hire an Injury Attorney Today

If you or a loved one was injured in an accident with a drunken driver, you have the right to seek compensation. Speak with an injury attorney today from Malman Law. Our Illinois attorneys understand what you and your family are going through and we want to help.

Our team offers no-obligation consultations and there is no risk to meet with us.

Schedule your consultation today by calling our office, or by scheduling your consultation online.

Steve Malman

Malman Law’s founder Attorney Steven Malman has over 30 years of experience handling personal injury, nursing home, medical malpractice, truck accidents, car accidents, premises liability, construction, and workers’ compensation cases in Chicago, IL.

Years of experience: +30 years
Illinois Registration Status: Active and authorized to practice law—Last Registered Year: 2023

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