In West Virginia, as in every state, if you're injured by an intoxicated person's negligence, you can bring a personal injury claim against that person. But your options for a legal remedy might not stop there. In certain circumstances, an injured person can seek compensation from the person or business that supplied the alcohol. These types of claims against a business are called "dram shop" claims and against a non-vendor are typically referred to as "social host liability" claims.
In this article, we'll look at third-party liability for an alcohol-related accident in West Virginia.
West Virginia is one of the few states that have no specific dram shop statute. However, Virginia state courts have allowed injured parties to seek damages against alcohol vendors in certain situations. Generally, these courts have established that an alcohol vendor can be held liable for the actions of an intoxicated patron where the vendor provided alcohol to:
Here's an example of the state's dram shop rule in action. Suppose that Dirk goes to Telly's Tavern for a few drinks. Although Dirk drinks several rounds and starts slurring his speech and becoming unable to walk, the bartender continues to serve him alcohol. Eventually, Dirk tries to stand up from his barstool, but he is so intoxicated that he loses his balance, and falls over. As he falls, he collides with Padma, who is sitting on the stool beside him. Padma and Dirk fall to the floor and are injured.
Padma can seek damages from Dirk for her injuries. She can also seek damages from Telly's Tavern for unlawfully serving alcohol to Dirk when Dirk was already obviously intoxicated.
West Virginia courts have been more reluctant to hold social hosts liable than they have been with alcohol vendors. Generally, a social host isn't responsible for the actions of an intoxicated guest unless the social host provided alcohol to a guest who's wasn't old enough to drink.
Civil damages are typically awarded to compensate an injured person for losses suffered in an accident where someone else (the defendant) was legally responsible. As with other personal injury cases, a successful dram shop claim might result in an award of damages that are meant to cover the injured person's medical bills, lost wages, the value of household services or childcare the injured person would have otherwise performed, property damage, and pain and suffering.
Like other civil injury claims, a dram shop claim must be filed in a West Virginia state court before the expiration of the statutory time limit. Generally, the statute of limitations for these types of cases is two years. However, each case is different, so always consult an attorney as soon as possible after an injury to ensure your rights are protected.