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Dram Shop Law in Florida: Are Alcohol-Serving Establishments Liable for Injuries?

By Team at Zimmet & Zimmet, In Personal injury

Drunk motorist at Florida liquor bar

If you were injured in a car crash caused by an impaired motorist in Florida, you might have grounds to sue the establishment that served alcohol to the drunk driver under Florida’s “dram shop law”. According to this law, businesses that sell alcohol – including nightclubs, bars, restaurants, casinos, and liquor stores – must abide by strict serving laws. 

If one of these establishments fails to comply with Florida’s dram shop laws when selling or serving alcoholic beverages, and their intoxicated patron gets into an accident that harms someone else, the establishment could be held liable for damages. 

Due to the complexity of this law, however, it’s advisable to consult with experienced Daytona Beach car accident attorneys to determine whether you can pursue a claim against the establishment that served alcohol to the drunk driver who caused your injury. 

What is Florida’s dram shop law?

Under Section 768.125, Florida Statutes, a bar, nightclub, or other establishment can be held liable if they sold or served alcohol to: an underage person, or an individual with a known drinking problem. To further clarify, Florida’s dram shop law may apply if one of the two conditions are met: 

In Florida and across the U.S., 21 is the lawful drinking age. If you can prove that an alcohol-serving establishment knowingly sold alcohol to a driver under the age of 21 who then caused you harm, you may be able to hold the establishment responsible for your injury under the dram shop liability statute. 

If a bar, restaurant, or another vendor sold alcohol to a person who is known to be habitually addicted to alcohol, and then the habitual drinker caused your car accident, you may be able to sue the establishment if you can prove that it was aware of the defendant’s drinking problem.

Can an establishment also be held liable for overserving a drunk person?

Unlike many other states, Florida does not hold establishments responsible for serving alcohol to a visibly intoxicated individual. Under Florida’s dram shop law, a bar cannot be sued for overserving an already drunk person even if they get behind the wheel and cause harm to another person. Florida’s dram shop law is limited to serving alcohol to individuals below the lawful drinking age and habitual drinkers.

Does Florida’s dram shop law apply at private parties?

Florida private party social hosts serving alcohol to guests.
Florida dram shop law does not hold private party hosts responsible for serving alcohol to someone who has a drinking problem.

Another exception to the Florida dram shop law applies to private party hosts. While businesses and alcohol-serving establishments can be sued for damages caused by certain drunk drivers, the law does not extend to “social hosts” who serve alcohol to habitual drinkers at private parties or gatherings.  

While the social host cannot be held liable under the dram shop law for serving alcohol to a person with a known drinking problem, they can still face penalties for knowingly providing alcohol to a minor at their private party. Specifically, under Section 322.057, Florida Statutes, the social host could get their driver’s license suspended if convicted of serving alcohol to an underage person. 

What damages are available under Florida’s dram shop law?

If you can prove that an alcohol-serving establishment knowingly or willfully sold alcohol to a driver under the age of 21 or to an individual addicted to alcohol, you could recover economic and non-economic damages associated with your injury. Damages that may be available in drunk driving cases include but are not limited to: 


In addition to the above-mentioned compensatory damages, you may also be able to recover punitive damages. Section 768.72, Florida Statutes allows injured parties to pursue a claim for punitive damages when the defendant is guilty of intentional misconduct or gross negligence. 

Often, individuals who drive under the influence of alcohol do not have enough insurance coverage or personal assets to cover all of the victim’s damages. That’s why filing a claim against a liable third party, including the alcohol-serving establishment, may allow the injured victim to seek additional compensation. With these options in mind, speak with a Florida car accident lawyer to evaluate your situation and determine what kinds of damages are recoverable in your particular case. 

How can our Daytona Beach car accident attorneys help you?

Section 95.11, Florida Statutes provides that people who were injured in car crashes have four years to sue the liable party to recover damages. While four years might seem like a long time, it is crucial to start gathering evidence and building a legal case as soon as possible. 

As time goes by, evidence can be lost or tampered with, while witnesses can forget what they saw or even what they said. For this reason, you need a skilled Florida car accident attorney and his staff of legal resources to quickly and thoroughly investigate your drunk driving accident, preserve evidence, and obtain witness statements to prove your claim. 

Hire a Daytona Beach car accident attorney to help you hold an alcohol-serving establishment liable for your damages and losses. Contact us online to schedule a free consultation with our lawyers or give us a call at 386-255-6400.

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