By Steven M. Bialick, Attorney,

Liquor establishments might be liable for injuries and losses caused by the sale of alcohol to obviously intoxicated persons or to persons who are underage. Laws imposing this liability are known as dram shop laws, and they vary from state to state. A few states, such as South Dakota, do not have dram shop laws.

Issues relating to dram shop laws include notice requirements, statutes of limitations / deadlines, and what persons are entitled to payment.

In most states, a bar that serves alcohol to an obviously drunk person who drives and injures someone can be held liable for those injuries. However, people who are physically injured by drunk drivers are not the only ones entitled to payments under some dram shop laws.

For example, Minnesota's dram shop law allows "a spouse, child, parent, guardian, employer, or other person injured in person, property,or means of support, or who incurs other pecuniary loss by an intoxicated person or by the intoxication of another person" to assert a dram shop claim. (Minnesota Statutes section 340A.801). Generally, the intoxicated person is not allowed to assert a claim under Minnesota's dram shop law, and that person is not relieved of liability for his or her wrongful behavior.

If an accident involving alcohol occurs, it should promptly be determined who provided the alcohol, where it was provided, and the circumstances under which it was provided.

Steven M. Bialick has been in the private practice of law since 1980.  He practices in the areas of accident and personal injury law.  This article is intended to provide general information only, and is not legal advice or a legal opinion on any certain facts or circumstances.  Readers are encouraged to consult with an attorney on any specific legal questions or matters.