If an intoxicated motorist injures you, can a third party – a host or a bartender, for example – be held accountable for making the alcohol available? The answer is “it depends.” You will need to discuss your case and your rights at once with a Phoenix personal injury attorney.

If you’ll keep reading, you will learn about Arizona’s dram shop laws – how Arizona’s justice system handles personal injury claims against hosts and bartenders who serve alcohol to someone who then gets behind the wheel, causes a collision, and injures someone else.

What Are Dram Shop Laws?

Whenever alcohol is a factor in a vehicle accident that results in injuries, Arizona and most states have laws that allow the injury victim to recover compensation from a third party – the party that provided the alcohol – in specific circumstances.

Historically, alcohol was sold by a unit of measure called a “dram.” Laws that govern the sale of alcohol are called “dram shop” laws, and businesses that serve alcohol are legally considered “dram shops.” Arizona imposes liability on a licensed bar or restaurant in these circumstances:

  1. Alcohol was served to someone who was clearly intoxicated.
  2. Alcohol was served to someone under age 21.
  3. The alcohol consumption must have been a direct cause of the personal injury or injuries.

There’s an important exception, however, in Arizona’s dram shop law. A business can not be held liable if the injury victim was present when the alcohol was served to the driver and was aware that the driver was intoxicated.

What Should You Know About DUI in Arizona?

You may be charged with driving under the influence (DUI) in Arizona if your blood alcohol content level measures at or above 0.08 percent. A standard first DUI charge is a misdemeanor unless there are particular aggravating circumstances.

Everyone knows that drinking and driving is a leading cause of vehicle accidents, injuries, and fatalities. More than 5,000 alcohol-related traffic accidents were reported in Arizona in 2021. Those accidents resulted in 243 fatalities and more than 3,600 reported injuries.

If you’re injured by an intoxicated driver, you may seek compensation by filing a personal injury claim with the help of a Phoenix personal injury lawyer. If you lose a loved one because another driver was intoxicated, your family may seek compensation with a wrongful death claim.

What Compensation Can Injury Victims Receive?

As a rule of thumb, commercial businesses carry substantially more liability coverage than individual drivers. If a business is held liable for your personal injuries, you have the right to recover compensation for:

  1. the nature and extent of your injuries
  2. your current and your projected future medical expenses
  3. your lost wages and your projected future lost wages
  4. your physical pain, emotional suffering, and mental anguish
  5. your loss of enjoyment of life and your property damage

The survivors of wrongful death victims may recover compensation for the decedent’s lost wages and lost earning capacity, for their pain, suffering, loss of companionship and consortium, and for the decedent’s final medical bills, funeral expenses, and burial or cremation expenses.

Can Servers and Hosts Be Held Liable?

The law in Arizona also recognizes “social host liability.” This means that anyone who provides alcohol to a minor – even on private property at a private gathering – may be held liable if that minor then drives under the influence and injures or kills someone else.

However, Arizona does not hold private social hosts liable if they serve alcohol to an adult who then drives under the influence and injures or kills someone else. Only businesses licensed to sell alcohol, and the employees of those businesses, may be held liable for serving alcohol to adults.

Anyone who knowingly serves an alcoholic beverage to a minor in Arizona may be charged with a Class 1 misdemeanor, and a conviction may be penalized with a fine and/or up to six months in jail.

If an Intoxicated Driver Injures You, Take These Steps

If you are injured in a traffic accident with an intoxicated driver in Arizona, take these steps at once:

  1. Summon medical help and determine if others need medical assistance.
  2. Call the police. Ask them how you may obtain a copy of their written accident report.
  3. Trade personal contact and insurance details with the other driver.
  4. Take photos of the damage to the vehicles, your injuries, and the general accident scene.
  5. Admit no fault. Sign no documents. Don’t speak to an insurance company representative.
  6. If you’re injured, after you’ve been treated, contact a personal injury attorney at once.

If the driver who injures you is convicted of driving under the influence, that conviction will be evidence of negligence in a personal injury case. Your attorney will investigate how you were injured, identify all potentially liable parties, and take steps to recover your compensation.

How Will Your Claim Be Handled?

After identifying the parties with liability, a Phoenix personal injury attorney will negotiate with those parties privately (or with their attorneys and insurance companies) for the settlement you need and deserve. That’s how the vast majority of personal injury claims are resolved in Arizona.

However, if liability is disputed, or if no acceptable settlement amount is offered in the out-of-court negotiations, a Phoenix personal injury lawyer may file a lawsuit and take your case to trial, explain to a jury how and why you were injured, and ask the jurors to award compensation for your damages.

When Should You Reach Out to a Personal Injury Lawyer?

If you are injured by a negligent or intoxicated driver in Arizona, contact a personal injury attorney as soon as you have been treated by a medical provider for your injury or injuries.

In Arizona, the statute of limitations for taking legal action after a traffic accident is two years. If you’ve missed that deadline, it’s possible that your case may qualify as an exception, so go ahead and speak to an attorney. If you’ve been injured recently, call an attorney now.

Don’t wait two years or even two weeks. The best scenario is for your attorney to examine the evidence immediately, before it deteriorates or disappears, and to interview the witnesses before their memories begin to fade.

What Will Justice Cost?

It costs nothing to begin the legal process. Personal injury lawyers in Arizona offer a free case evaluation – without cost or obligation – to the injured victims of intoxicated drivers. It’s your chance to receive personalized legal advice and to learn how the law applies in your own case.

If you and your attorney move forward with a personal injury claim, you will pay no attorney’s fee upfront or until and unless your attorney recovers compensation on your behalf. If for any reason you are not compensated at the end of the process, you will owe nothing to your attorney.

But if you’ve been injured by an intoxicated driver, and if you and your attorney can prove it, you will be compensated for the nature and extent of your injuries, past and future medical costs, lost wages, pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life and related losses.