If a person suffers serious injuries caused by a drunk driver, he or she can sue the responsible motorist for medical bills and other associated costs. If a Rhode Island restaurant or bar over-served the driver alcohol, the injured person may also have a case against the establishment. 

Learn more about how liquor liability laws, also called dram shop laws, work in Rhode Island. 

Negligent vs. reckless alcohol services

Rhode Island law holds an alcohol vendor responsible when he or she serves liquor to someone who later causes an accident. Negligent service occurs when the individual was either already visibly intoxicated or younger than 21. The law presumes negligence in the case of a minor if the server did not ask for identification. 

Reckless service occurs when the server intentionally serves alcohol to a person who is visibly intoxicated or younger than 21. It requires proof that the server knew that serving the person carried a significant risk of serious harm. In the case of visible intoxication, it must be shown that the driver’s appearance or manner would have caused a reasonable person to know he or she was under the influence. 

Available damages

A person suffering injuries from an accident caused by an intoxicated individual can potentially recover the cost of health care costs, lost wages, and pain and suffering. If the driver does not have sufficient auto insurance, the injured person may choose to sue the bar or restaurant that served the driver. 

In addition, when the intoxication occurred after reckless service, the injured person can sue the restaurant or bar and ask for punitive damages. With contributory negligence, the law can hold the service establishment partially responsible and order the company to pay a percentage of damages. 

As with other types of personal injury lawsuits, Rhode Island individuals have three years to file a liquor liability or dram shop claim after an auto accident. These laws also apply to other accident injuries caused by an intoxicated person.