If you are injured by a drunk driver in South Carolina, the most obvious avenue of recovery is the at-fault driver’s automobile liability policy. However, it is not uncommon for the drunk driver’s auto policy to be grossly insufficient to fully compensate the victim or his/her family for the injuries or death caused by the collision. When this is the case, it is important that victims of drunk drivers understand and fully investigate their rights to recover under a “dram shop” theory of liability.
“Dram shop” laws allow victims of drunk drivers to hold the bars, restaurants, and other alcohol retailers that over serve guests accountable for the injury or death caused by the intoxicated customer. Although South Carolina does not have a formal Dram Shop Act or other codified law, our courts have regularly held bars and restaurants liable for overserving guests.
What does pursuing a dram shop claim involve? Generally, one must show that the establishment sold an alcoholic beverage to the defendant driver when the employee serving the driver knew or should have known that that individual was intoxicated. Successfully proving a dram shop case typically requires obtaining, reviewing and deciphering hundreds of pages of documents and other media, including security camera footage, sales receipts, work schedules, training records, etc. A dram shop case also generally requires deposing most of the people involved with the restaurant, including the owner, managers, on and off-duty employees, and bouncers/security personnel, among others.
Dram shop cases almost always require extensive litigation and are a different matter entirely than the underlying motor vehicle claim. If you’ve been injured in a car accident caused by a drunk driver, it’s important that you retain an attorney familiar with litigating cases against bars and restaurants that over serve their guests and allow them to drive drunk.
 Where did the moniker “dram shop” come from? The term appears to have originated in the United Kingdom in the 18th century as a descriptor for liquor shops that sold gin and other liquors by the dram, which was a unit of volume used to measure the serving of liquor.