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What are dram shop laws?

On Behalf of | Aug 29, 2023 | Drunk Driver Accidents/Dram Shop Liability

Drunk driving accidents claim thousands of lives around the country each year. The victims of drunk drivers can seek compensation by filing personal injury lawsuits against the reckless motorists who injure them, and they may also be able to sue the bars, restaurants or clubs that sold them alcohol. That is because Georgia and most other states have what are called dram shop laws on their books. These laws allow establishments that sell alcohol to be held responsible for the injury, loss or damage caused by their intoxicated customers.

Dram shop laws

Dram shop laws originated in the United Kingdom, and they are named after establishments that sold gin in tiny quantities called drams. While dram shop laws allow restaurants and bars to be sued when their clients cause accidents and injuries, proving liability in such a lawsuit could be difficult. This is because state laws are carefully drafted to protect both drunk driving accident victims and establishments that sell alcohol.

The Georgia dram shop law

The dram shop law in Georgia allows businesses that furnish, sell or serve alcohol to be held responsible for the reckless acts of their intoxicated customers when they:

  • Knowingly, willfully and unlawfully sell alcohol to a patron younger than 21 years of age who they know will soon be driving a motor vehicle.
  • Knowingly and willfully sell alcohol to an obviously intoxicated patron who they know will soon be driving a motor vehicle.

Plaintiffs who sue restaurants or bars in Georgia after a drunk driving accident must prove that bartenders or restaurant staff served alcohol to patrons that they knew were under age or intoxicated and would be driving, and they must also establish that serving the alcohol was the proximate cause of their injury, loss or damage.


Lawsuits brought under these laws are based on the tort of negligence, but serving alcohol is only considered negligent in certain situations. To be held liable for the acts of a drunk driver, a restaurant or bar in Georgia would have to serve alcohol to a patron that they knew should not be drinking and yet who planned to drive.