Oregon Drunk Driving FAQs

Answers to some Oregon drunk driving FAQs and questions regarding liquor liability laws.

I was hit by a drunk driver; is the establishment that served the liquor liable for my injuries under Oregon liquor liability laws?

Yes, if you were injured in an accident where the at-fault party was drunk or substantially impaired, then the commercial establishment or social host that served alcohol to the at-fault party may be liable for your injuries.  Oregon Revised Statute, ORS 471.565, governs this area of law and is call Oregon’s Dram Shop Law.  This statute makes it illegal for commercial providers of alcohol and social hosts to serve alcohol to someone who is visibly intoxicated.  Visible signs of intoxication may include slurred speech, bloodshot eyes, lack of coordination, slowed or delayed reaction time, aggression, being loud and other outward symptoms that can be seen or heard.  Owners, managers, bartenders, wait staff and hosts all have a responsibility to carefully monitor the behavior of patrons and guests who are served alcohol on the premises for signs of visible intoxication.  If a patron or guest is showing signs of visible intoxication and the liquor licensee or host continues to serve alcohol then they may be liable for any personal injury subsequently caused by the intoxicated person.

Do Oregon Liquor Liability or Dram Shop cases differ from personal injury claims?

Oregon liquor liability law is more complex than a personal injury case because it has a number of added requirements and exceptions.  For instance, just like most Oregon personal injury cases, the statute of limitations for dram shop claims is two years from the date of injury.  But the Oregon liquor liability law also requires the injured victim to provide written notice within 180 days of the injury causing accident to the provider of alcohol about the circumstances of the accident and injuries suffered.  This is called formal notice.  If the intoxicated person caused a death then the written notice requirement is extended to one year.  Injured victims will also be barred from bringing a successful dram shop claim against the provider of alcohol if the victim “substantially” contributed to the intoxication.  This provision prevents people from becoming voluntarily intoxicated and then making an injury claim against the tavern who served them alcohol.  Oregon law also requires people seeking damages for personal injuries in dram shop cases to prove their claim by “clear and convincing” evidence, which is a higher burden of proof than the normal civil “by a preponderance of the evidence standard.”  These special requirements make Oregon liquor liability accident claims harder than other Oregon personal injury claims. Portland Liquor Liability Lawyer Travis Mayor has a thorough understanding of how to prove liability against the offending alcohol provider and maximize the financial recovery for victims of irresponsible bars and taverns.

Why should I consider making dram shop or Oregon liquor liability claim against the provider of alcohol?

The simple fact is that alcohol related injuries in Oregon tend to be very serious.  Drunk drivers cause at least one-third of the motor vehicle fatalities in Oregon.  Drunk drivers also cause a significant amount of non-fatal crashes and injuries.  Unfortunately, many drunk drivers are driving while uninsured.  Many of them are repeat offenders who are not supposed to be driving in the first place.  Of the drunk drivers who are insured, many of them are driving with less than adequate liability insurance for the damage and personal injuries they cause Oregon drivers.  Fortunately, the Oregon liquor liability law requires bars, taverns and other commercial providers of alcohol to carry mandatory Oregon liquor liability insurance of $300,000.  Note this is the minimum amount of liability insurance that businesses serving alcohol must carry.  It is common for businesses that provide alcohol to carry policies that provide $1 million in liability insurance for dram shop claims.  Hiring a Portland Dram Shop Lawyer who knows how to win Oregon dram shop cases after a drunk driving accident can make all of the difference in whether you will recover financially for your injuries or be left uncompensated by the uninsured or underinsured drunk driver.

Is the Bar or Tavern who provided the alcohol solely responsible?

No.  In Oregon, drunk drivers and intoxicated people who negligently cause personal injuries and death are just as responsible as the offending providers of alcohol.  The victims of drunk drivers can recover from the drunk driver’s auto insurance policy, assuming the drunk driver has car insurance.  The minimum amount of motor vehicle liability insurance coverage required under Oregon law is $25,000.  Victims can also pursue the personal assets of the drunk driver if the driver does not have adequate insurance.  Oftentimes, however, in these situations the drunk driver does not have much in the way of individual assets and wealth.  These unfortunate situations are not all that uncommon.  Fortunately, Oregon’s dram shop law holds negligent providers of alcohol responsible for any damage caused because of service to a visibly intoxicated patron.  In these circumstances, it is important to retain an Portland Liquor Liability Lawyer who can evaluate whether you have a viable dram shop claim against a bar, tavern or social host as well as the intoxicated driver who caused your injuries.

Can I seek punitive damages against the provider of alcohol under Oregon Liquor Liability Law?

Yes, depending on the particular circumstances of your case.  It is very common that victims of drunk drivers can legally pursue punitive damages against the drunk driver because the driver’s conduct is grossly negligent and reckless.  Punitive damages are another form of compensation that can be sought, which are intended to punish the offending drunk driver as well as to deter similar conduct by other drivers.  Punitive damages and the threat of punitive damages typically make drunken driving car accident verdicts and settlements higher than normal Oregon car accident injury cases.  Oregon liquor liability law also allows personal injury victims to pursue punitive damages against bars, taverns and other providers of alcohol is the service to a visibility intoxicated person is grossly negligent.  For instance, if a bartender continues to serve alcohol to a patron who is visibly intoxicated when it is obvious to everyone that the customer should be cut off and sent home in a taxi-cab; and that drunken patron drives away from the bar and injures or kills someone on the road, then the bar would be subject to a claim for punitive damages in addition to all of the other types of compensation allowed under the law.  Punitive damages are not automatic though.  There are special pleading and evidentiary requirements.  Portland Liquor Liability Attorney Travis Mayor has the experience required to evaluate and pursue punitive damages in your Oregon liquor liability or dram shop claim.

See answers to other frequently asked questions relating to accidents and personal injuries, and learn how Mayor Law, LLC can help you today.