Excessive Alcohol Service (Dram Shop Liability)

Drunk driving cases sometimes focus on an actor besides the drunk driver: the establishment or person who served someone who is intoxicated and likely to drive. Because of this, the circumstances of how someone becomes intoxicated and gets behind the wheel are always important to consider and investigate.


Both North Carolina and South Carolina prohibit service of alcohol to people who are intoxicated. The laws that forbid serving alcohol to individuals who are intoxicated are called “dram shop” laws, using the old term that refers to bars and taverns. Whenever there is a collision caused by an impaired driver, there should always be an investigation into whether the impaired driver was enabled by an establishment that serves alcohol.

An overserved individual who gets behind the wheel poses a threat to other drivers and passengers on our roadways. Restaurants and bars have a duty to refuse service to anyone who appears intoxicated. Continuing to serve a person who may already be drunk increases compounds a dangerous situation if that person is likely to drive away.

Additionally, serving an already visibly intoxicated person increases the chances of that person suffering from serious injury or death from alcohol poisoning. Because it takes some time for the body to process alcohol, excessive service of alcohol creates a situation where there is more alcohol than the body can process. This leads to the impairing and potentially fatal effects of alcohol. Alcohol intoxication impairs coordination and judgment. A business that is acting responsibly will refuse to participate in compounding someone’s intoxication. A business that has served a person to this extent may be liable for that person’s alcohol poisoning.

Our society regulates the sale and consumption of alcohol for the protection of its citizens. If you have been injured by a drunk driver, we can determine whether a business that serves alcohol contributed to that driver’s dangerous intoxication.


Just as bars and restaurants should not serve alcohol to people who are intoxicated, hosts of private parties where alcohol is provided have an obligation to avoid serving people who are already drunk. A party host should not allow service to anyone who will be driving away from the party. If a party host knows or should know that a guest is intoxicated and may be driving away from the party, there should be no further service of alcohol to that guest. Continuing to serve a guest who may be intoxicated only amplifies the impairing effects of alcohol.

If you or a loved one has been injured by an impaired driver, please contact us by phone at 704-376-1911 or toll-free at 1-800-977-3077, or contact us online, and let us investigate whether any responsibility lies with a private party host for serving alcohol to the impaired driver.