Do Dram Shop Laws Apply to PA Drunken Driving Cases?

Categories: Car Crashes


Most states have enacted laws that not only hold drunk drivers accountable for their irresponsible actions, but also hosts and alcohol vendors, such as bars. Pennsylvania is one of those states that has enacted laws to punish both parties involved in a drunk driving case – when the right circumstances apply.

State laws allow you to file civil dram shop laws, especially if the driver was under the age of 21.

What are the Dram Shop Laws of Pennsylvania?

Under the PA Liquor Code, Section 4-497, any alcohol vendor licensed in the state can be held liable for damages and injuries caused by a drunk driver if they sold that driver alcohol knowing that they intended to drive drunk or when the person was obviously intoxicated.

Under these laws, the courts have allowed “negligence per se,” which means the plaintiff does not have to prove anything beyond the alcohol vendor’s liability. Often, showing that the vendor violated the alcohol codes of the state is enough to prove liability.

Negligence per se also applies when:

  • The driver was under the age of 21.
  • The driver was a habitual drunk that frequented the establishment.
  • The person was known to be impaired.
  • The person was not of sound mind at the time they were served alcohol.

When Does Social Host Liability Apply?

Civil liability claims in the state against social hosts, when they serve alcohol to minors, can also apply in a drunk driving case. However, that minor must be visibly intoxicated and the social host must know that they are under the legal drinking age.

Here is an example of a case where social host liability would apply: A 19-year old goes to a local college party. The host is 21 years old and is aware of the 19-year old’s age. She continues to serve the 19-year old alcohol, well past when the young girl appears intoxicated. The 19-year old college student then decides to drive home from the party but causes an accident. Not only is the 19-year old responsible, but the 21-year old hosting the party is equally responsible.

The Statute of Limitations in a Dram Shop Law Case for PA

Dram shop cases are like other personal injury cases; therefore, the law limits how much time you have to file your claim. Therefore, you have two years to file the claim. However, it is best that you file your claim as quickly as possible. The longer you wait, the more likely evidence is to have disappeared, witnesses forget key events, and your attorney may not have the same access to information as he would have before.

Speak with an Injury Attorney in PA Today

There is no obligation to speak with an attorney in the state of Pennsylvania. Most attorneys will discuss your case for free, and you do not pay your attorney unless they collect compensation in your case.

To explore your options, contact Jeffrey H. Penneys, Esq. by calling him directly on his cell at 215-771-0430, toll-free at 800-465-8795, or at the office at 215-987-3550. You can also request more information about his legal services online.