Dram Shop Liability in California

If you have sustained injuries in a drunk driving car accident in California, then you may have a right of action against the defendant for damages.

Unfortunately, in many situations the drunk driving defendant may have inadequate insurance (and inadequate personal assets) to cover your losses. When the drunk driving defendant does not have the means by which to cover your losses, you'll have to look elsewhere to attach liability and secure maximum compensation.

In many states, dram shop liability rules allow plaintiffs to do just that. Stated simply, dram shop liability rules typically allow the injured plaintiff in a drunk driving accident to bring a separate, independent action against the business or social host who has furnished the defendant-driver with alcohol, causing them to be intoxicated.

Dram shop liability can therefore open up the case and enable the injured plaintiff to secure adequate damages even when the driver lacks proper insurance coverage and assets.

Here at the Law Office of Brian J. O'Grady, we represent injured clients in a wide range of disputes, including those that involve drunk driving accidents. If you've been harmed, we encourage you to get in touch with our firm today to request a free and confidential consultation.

Important: California Does Not Impose Dram Shop Liability

In California, third-party dram shop liability - in other words, the imposition of liability on those who provide alcohol to others (who then go on to cause injuries due to their intoxication) - is almost non-existent. Excepting certain limited circumstances, car accident injury plaintiffs cannot sue and recover damages from the individual or entity that furnished the drunk driver with alcohol.

It's really that simple - and, truth be told, quite unfortunate for those who have suffered injuries in a drunk driving accident. It's worth noting, however, that because dram shop liability is curtailed so much in the state of California, the value of an experienced car accident attorney skyrockets.

Creative attorneys will investigate the facts of the accident thoroughly and determine whether there may be other liable third-parties beyond the obvious (i.e., driver and dram shop). For example, if the brakes on the defendant-driver's car were defective, that could have contributed to your injuries, giving you a legitimate claim for damages against the car/brake manufacturer.

Furnishing Minors with Alcohol

In California, dram shop liability will be applied only when the defendant-driver is a minor who has been furnished with alcohol. The rules vary depending on whether the provider of alcohol was a business (or employee thereof), or a social host. Let's take a quick look.


Businesses may only be held liable for providing alcohol to a minor drunk driver (i.e., under the age of 21) if you can show that the minor was obviously intoxicated when the business provided the alcohol at-issue. If the minor was not obviously intoxicated - in other words, if there were no reasonable indications as to their intoxicated state - then the business cannot be held liable for injuries caused by the minor drunk driver, even if the business broke the law by serving them alcohol in the first place.

Social Hosts

Social hosts are subject to somewhat higher standards than businesses. Social hosts may be held liable for providing alcohol to a minor, even if the minor is not obviously intoxicated at the time that the alcohol is provided. All that is necessary to attach liability to the social host is proof that the social host knew or reasonably should have known that the drunk driving defendant was actually a minor.

Request a Free Consultation with an Experienced Mountain View Car Accident Attorney

If you have been injured in a car accident that was caused due to the fault of another individual or entity - in other words, by the negligent, reckless, or intentional misconduct of the defendant - then you may be entitled to substantial compensation for your losses under California law.

Drunk driving lawsuits are quite common, and can lead to significant damages under certain circumstances, but in some cases, the individual who consumed the alcohol (and became intoxicated) may not have sufficient insurance coverage or personal assets to pay for your damages. It therefore becomes quite important to identify various other parties who might have contributed to your injuries, such as those who furnished alcohol upon the driver themselves.

Attorney Brian J. O'Grady has over four decades of experience advocating on behalf of Mountain View plaintiffs who have been injured in a range of accidents - from drunk driving accidents to multi-car pileups, and more.

Here at the Law Office of Brian J. O'Grady, we are committed, detail-oriented representatives for our clients. We believe that the most effective advocacy is that which is built through a partnership, and from the beginning of our engagement with the client, we strive to maintain open lines of communication so that we can obtain all necessary information, and align ourselves strategically.

Ready to move forward?

Call (650) 318-6131 today to request a free, confidential, and no-obligation consultation with an experienced Mountain View car accident attorney. We will take the time to fully evaluate your case and explain how best to approach the process of obtaining adequate compensation for your injuries.