Between 2003 and 2012, 968 fatal accidents in Iowa involved a drunk driver. Around 30 % of fatal crashes are alcohol-related. In addition to fatalities, numerous people are injured by drunk drivers throughout Iowa. The Des Moines Register recently published an article highlighting the following shocking statistics:
- Since 2005, 222 people have been charged with vehicular homicide as a result of driving drunk;
- At least 13 of those drivers were caught driving drunk after being convicted of vehicular homicide;
- Since 2005, more than 11,300 people have been arrested for driving drunk three or more times.
These numbers are consistent with what I have seen in my practice. In nearly every case where I have represented a person injured by a drunk driver or the family of a person killed by a drunk driver, it has not been the first time the person was arrested for drunk driving.
Unfortunately, often a driver with a prior drunk driving history does not have sufficient insurance limits to fully compensate the persons they have harmed (or does not carry any insurance). This leaves injured persons to recover for their own insurance through uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage or, in some cases, to pursue a dram shop claim.
In Iowa, the law prohibits bars or other establishments that hold a liquor license from over-serving patrons. A bar that serves a patron to the point of intoxication or when they reasonably should know the patron is already intoxicated can be held responsible if that patron later harms someone while drunk. The law also requires that in order to obtain a liquor license, a bar or other establishment must provide proof of dram shop insurance.
Dram shop cases can be complicated, often because the drunk driver refused to submit to a breathalyzer. They often involve obtaining the investigative files from police, speaking with investigating officers and hiring a toxicologist to determine if the drunk driver was likely served to the point of intoxication at the defendant bar.
One important thing to remember about dram shop cases is that persons injured by a drunk driver must send a notice of a potential dram shop claim to the bar within six months of the date of injury unless they can show good cause for not doing so. Dram shop claims are often pursued in addition to a claim against the drunk driver who caused the injury.
If you have been injured by a drunk driver, you should speak with an attorney about a potential dram shop claim as soon as possible. If you would like to speak with me about your claim, please call me at (319) 826-2250.