If you have suffered an injury or loss due to a drunk driver, you may be exploring the option of holding both that person and a third party accountable for the damages. At Cantrell, Goodge & Associates, we know that your options could include pursuing a claim against a business that served alcohol to the driver. You should be aware of Tennessee’s laws regarding such liability if you plan on filing a lawsuit.

As the National Conference of State Legislatures points out, Tennessee’s dram shop liability law states that there are limited circumstances in which you may file a claim against a third party. Those situations must include all of the following:

  • The person who bought the alcohol was either younger than 21 or was visibly intoxicated.
  • The sale of the alcohol directly caused the injury.
  • The third party sold the alcohol directly to the intoxicated person.

Tennessee also mandates that a jury must find all three of these factors in a case beyond a reasonable doubt, which is a much higher standard that many other civil liability cases in which a preponderance of evidence typically suffices.

Based on these laws, there are some notable exceptions. For example, if the driver attended a party at which alcohol is provided to guests at no charge, you cannot hold the hold the hosts of the party accountable because they did not sell the beverage. While these social event hosts could be hold criminally liable for serving a minor, you cannot seek civil damages from them.

If your dram shop claim is successful, you may be able to recover damages for items such as medical bills, property damage and lost wages. For more information on this topic, please visit our page on DUI incidents.


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