Can Bars Be Held Liable in Drunk Driving Accidents? Yes, they can.

In Kansas City and throughout the state of Missouri, drunk driving is a significant problem, contributing up to 21% of traffic fatalities.  Many of these accidents could have been easily avoided if the intoxicated drivers had chosen not to get behind the wheel.  Under Missouri law, the responsibility for these accidents may not always rest solely on the shoulders of intoxicated drivers.  Under Missouri’s Dram Shop Law, bars can be held partially liable for drunk driving accidents if they served alcohol to someone who is visibly intoxicated.  

If you or a loved one was injured in a drunk driving accident, you don’t have to go through it alone, we’re here to help.  Reach out to our office today at 816-203-0143 or fill out our online contact form.  Our experienced drunk driving accident attorney will listen, and guide you on the next steps of the best way forward.

In this article, you’ll learn more about Missouri’s Dram Shop Law and how it could help you or someone you love.

What is Missouri’s Dram Shop Law?

bartender pouring alcohol into glasses on a barMissouri’s Dram Shop Law is a state law that makes it possible for establishments that serve visibly intoxicated customers to be held liable for any damages resulting from that customer's impaired driving.

Dram Shop laws varies vary state to state, but in general, these laws allow those injured in drunk driving accidents to sue the establishment that served the alcohol.  This may include bars, restaurants, liquor stores, and even private parties where alcohol is served.

When Can You File a Dram Shop Lawsuit in Missouri

There are a few important things to keep in mind if you're considering filing a dram shop lawsuit.  First, to hold a bar liable under Dram Shop Law in Missouri, our personal injury attorney must be able to prove the following:

  • A Missouri bar, restaurant or other establishment served alcohol to someone under the legal drinking age of 21, or to a visibly intoxicated patron;  
  • The patron's intoxication caused an accident; and
  • Our client suffered damages due to the accident.

To establish the first factor, that the patron was “visibly intoxicated”, our injury attorney must be able to prove that the bar knew or should have known the patron was intoxicated and chose to serve them alcohol anyway.

Defenses to Missouri Dram Shop Law

As with all legal claims, there are tactics or defenses that a bar may assert to avoid liability.  For example, the bar may not be held liable if it can prove that it did not serve the person alcohol, or that the person was not visibly intoxicated.  

The bar may not be held liable if another patron purchased the drink and the bar had no reasonable way of knowing who it was for.  In this case, it may be difficult to prove that the bar knew or should have known that the patron should not have been served.  The bar also may not be held liable if the accident was caused by a third party who was not drinking at the bar, or if there was some other prevailing factor that caused the crash.

How to Prove a Bar is at Fault for a Drunk Driving Accident in Missouri

There are several types of evidence that can be helpful to establish liability in a dram shop case in Missouri. Solid evidence is necessary to prove that a bar knew or should have known a patron was intoxicated, yet continued to serve them:  

  • Statements from witnesses, which may include the drunk driver or those at the bar.  For example, witnesses may testify that they saw the patron stumbling, slurring words, or exhibiting other signs of intoxication.
  • Physical evidence like bar receipts and credit card records may show that the patron was served many drinks in a short period or the alcohol content of what they were drinking.  
  • Blood alcohol tests and expert opinions may be used to establish the extent to which the drunk driver was intoxicated, and that the bar should have stopped serving them.

It’s important to remember that Missouri’s Dram Shop Law does not hold bars responsible for all drunk driving accidents.  However, if you cannot meet the standard of proof established by this law, the intoxicated driver will still be held responsible for their actions.

Personal injury claims involving drunk driving in Missouri can be complicated.  If you are considering bringing a claim against a drunk driver or a bar for a drunk driving accident, consult with our experienced drunk driving accident attorney.  Our attorney can help you navigate the process and understand your options, including the specific requirements for holding a bar liable under Missouri’s Dram Shop Law.  Our team will help you gather the evidence you need to prove your case.

Get Help from Our Drunk Driving Accident Attorney in Kansas City

Missouri’s Dram Shop laws allows injured parties to hold bars liable for serving a visibly intoxicated patron.  If you or a loved one were involved in an accident with a drunk driver, you have the right to seek compensation for your injuries.  


Our law firm is here to help, call us today at 816-203-0143 for a free consultation.  You can also instantly download our free book Crash Course: 9 Mistakes That Can Wreck Your Accident Claim.   Our experienced drunk driving accident attorney will listen and is on your side.  We'll navigate the way forward.


Kevin J. McManus
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Kevin McManus is an accident injury and disability lawyer in Kansas City, MO, and Overland Park, KS
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