Bar Fight Injuries: Legal Liability For Drinking Establishments

Bar Fight Injuries: Legal Liability For Drinking Establishments2018-11-09T14:57:36+00:00
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Were you or a loved one assaulted in a bar, restaurant or nightclub? You may be eligible to pursue significant financial compensation by filing a dram shop lawsuit. Licensed establishments can be held accountable for serving alcohol in violation of state law.

  • Illegal liquor service claims
  • Lawsuits for negligent security
  • Physical injuries and emotional trauma

To learn more about your legal options, contact our experienced lawyers now for a free consultation.

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Were you or a loved one injured in a bar fight? Most of us understand that physical assault, especially when it results in injury, is a crime punishable under the law. But it can also become the basis for a civil lawsuit, in which one private citizen or family demands financial compensation from someone else.

Pursuing Justice Through Civil Law

The criminal justice system isn't particularly interested in helping victims recover. While recent developments in the law, including state-run compensation funds for crime victims, are a good start, there's still much work to do.

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Crime often takes a significant physical, emotional and financial toll on victims and their families. Filing a civil lawsuit could be the solution. Of course, pursuing financial compensation won't change what happened to you or your loved one, but it can help you begin to recover with confidence.

Bar, Restaurant & Nightclub Liability In Assault & Battery Lawsuits

Survivors of crime have a wide range of rights that stretch far beyond the criminal justice system. You also have rights under America's long history of civil law, including the right to sue the person who hurt you or your loved one.

But your rights don't just end there, with the criminal offender who directly caused the injuries. You may also have the right to file suit against the bar, restaurant or other licensed establishment that served the offender alcohol in the first place.

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Serving Visibly Intoxicated Patrons Is Illegal

When an establishment secures a license to serve or sell alcohol, it has to follow the rules. Among those rules are not serving minors and not serving patrons who are already intoxicated.

It's against the law, in every state, to continue serving someone who displays the visible signs of intoxication, like slurred speech and blurry eyes. What happens, though, when a bar or other licensed establishments violates one of these rules?

For one thing, the establishment has broken the law, and that could result in criminal charges. But in most states, it also opens the bar or restaurant to civil liability.

Dram Shop Liability For Bar Fights & Physical Injuries

The vast majority of states have established dram shop laws, which make it possible for licensed drinking establishments to be held accountable for the wrongful actions of their patrons.

This concept might seem counter-intuitive at first. A bar serves alcohol to a patron who's already drunk. That person goes on to hurt someone else; maybe they pick a fight and end up breaking someone's jaw.

Why would we hold the bar responsible for the drunken patron's violence? Because bars, restaurants, liquor stores and nightclubs have a duty to serve alcohol in a reasonably safe manner.

A Licensed Establishment's Duty To Patrons

As we all know, drinking alcohol reduces your ability to make reasoned judgments; it's not solely a matter of personal responsibility. Someone has to be the watchdog. According to state law, licensed establishments should play some role in protecting public health.

That's the basic logic behind dram shop laws. In most cases, the basic claim in a dram shop lawsuit is that the bar over-served a patron (either ignoring, dismissing or failing to notice the visible signs of intoxication) who went on to cause someone else physical injuries.

Premises Liability & Negligent Security Claims

Another option for legal recourse is to file a premises liability lawsuit. Licensed establishments have an obligation to serve alcohol responsibility, but they also have a duty to offer patrons with a reasonable level of security. And specifically, they have an obligation to provide patrons with a reasonable degree of protection against foreseeable harm.

Patterns Of Repeated Violence

A bar, for example, with a long history of violent crime could, in principle, be held liable if it fails to address the issue. The same goes for "problem patrons." Let's say a bar's ownership (or an individual bartender) knows that a particular individual tends to become violent when they drink. If the bar serves that person anyway, and he goes on to hurt someone else after becoming intoxicated, the establishment could be on the hook for financial damages.

Failures To Protect

It's not enough, however, to show that the assault was reasonably foreseeable. You'll also have to prove that the establishment failed to take reasonable steps to prevent patron injuries. Maybe, given the high-crime area in which the bar is located, a reasonable owner would have employed security guards to calm things down. Or, alternatively, a reasonable bar owner might have seen fit to install security cameras to deter potential criminal offenders.

Holding Security Companies Accountable

In some cases, you may even be able to sue a third-party security company hired by the bar. Security guards have one job, and one job alone: protect people and personal property. So a security company that fails to do so may be liable for the injuries sustained by victims.

As just one example, let's say a security company working at a nightclub with a history of violent activity fails to pat down all of the patrons who enter. If one of those patrons has a gun, and goes on to shoot someone else, the security company, along with the nightclub, might be liable for the victim's injuries.

Assault & Battery: Defining Intentional Torts

When someone punches you in the face, they've committed a crime (unless they were defending themselves). But they've also committed a civil "tort." Torts are wrongful acts that infringe on someone else's rights and create the basis for civil liability.

And, while most civil lawsuits are filed in relation to torts of negligence, which derive from a careless disregard for someone else's safety, assault and battery are considered intentional torts.

What Is Assault?

Just threatening to harm someone can be a tort. In fact, the term "assault," when it's not attached in the same breath to "battery," refers exclusively to the act of issuing a credible threat of bodily harm. That's true both in criminal and in civil law.

Assault can take the form of a verbal threat, or raising a hand to someone else. Physical injuries aren't necessary for a crime (or tort) to have been committed. Making someone else reasonably fear the possibility of imminent physical harm is enough. And we give this offense the name "assault."

Battery: Intentional Non-Consensual Contact

Even so, most violations of this nature will fall under the dual definition of assault and battery. Battery is simple to define, but it's probably broader than you think.

In American civil law, battery refers to any intentional touch without permission (consent) of a harmful or offensive nature. A punch in the face fits the bill, but so do most crimes of a sexual nature, which often involve some level of non-consensual physical contact.

The definition of battery also encompasses contact effected through a projectile. Throwing something at someone else counts as battery, as does shooting someone with a gun.

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