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Dram Shop Act Claims in Pennsylvania and West Virginia

Dram shop laws are laws that allow someone to file a lawsuit that holds a third-party accountable in a personal injury or wrongful death case.

These laws focus on businesses that serve or sell alcohol. If a bar, restaurant, or store sells alcohol to an intoxicated or underage person and that person goes on to do something that causes injury or death to another person, the entity that sold the alcohol is legally liable.

Each state enacts its own dram shop laws. Dram shop laws in Pennsylvania and West Virginia hold businesses liable for serving or selling alcohol to minors or people who are intoxicated. Victims injured due to the drunken behavior of another person can not only hold the perpetrator accountable, but they can also hold accountable the entity that supplied the alcohol.

How Do You File a Dram Shop Claim in Pennsylvania or West Virginia?

West Virginia’s state court system recognizes dram shop liability but doesn’t specifically address underage alcohol consumption. The law focuses on physical incapacitation. If someone is obviously drunk, the establishment cannot legally serve them. If an intoxicated person goes on to cause injury to someone else, the establishment is legally accountable for damages.

It allows those injured in an accident related to someone’s alcohol consumption to pursue additional compensation from the bar, restaurant, liquor store, or other commercial entity that provided the alcohol.

In Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Liquor Code governs dram shop liability. It also holds alcohol vendors accountable for injuries suffered due to an intoxicated or minor’s negligence if the person was “visibly intoxicated” when the alcohol was sold.

Pennsylvania courts also recognize “negligence per se.” This means the victim needn’t prove anything regarding the alcohol vendor’s liability. Violating the state’s liquor code is enough to suppose the claim.

Additionally, Pennsylvania recognizes civil liability claims in cases that involve service to minors, but not when all parties involved are of legal drinking age.

Dram shop law does not apply to social hosts. If you host a party in your home and someone is intoxicated, you are not legally responsible for denying them service. There are very few instances in which a social host’s liability will be called into question if an accident occurs as the result of intoxication.

Keep in mind, there is a two-year statute of limitations on dram shop legal action. In West Virginia and Pennsylvania, the injured party must bring a dram shop claim against the establishment within two years of the date of the person’s injury.

If you have questions about dram shop laws or you need to speak to someone about a claim, contact Heavens Law at 888.897.5377.

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