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Dram Shop Law: Can a Bar in Florida Be Held Liable for a DUI Accident?

Florida car accident - Zarzaur LawAs a board-certified personal injury lawyer who specializes in Florida car accidents, I am asked about liability of bars and restaurants when a DUI car accident with injury or death occur. What happens if somebody goes to a bar, gets drunk, and ends up hurting or killing somebody? Is there something that can be done?  The short answer is possibly. You would think that it would be an automatic yes if somebody knowingly serves somebody and gets them drunk, and they go out and kill somebody with their car on Florida roads because they’re drunk.


Can Bars and Restaurants Be Held Liable For A Florida DUI Car Accident? 

You should automatically be able to answer that question with a yes. They should be held responsible, but we’re in Florida. Florida has a really powerful tourist lobby group, and they have erected laws that protect the tourism industry, namely entertainment, bars, restaurants, hotels, the kinds of places that may serve alcohol to people. The statute that we’re referring to that limits the liability of bars and restaurants or other places that serve liquor—that area of the law is called Dram Shop.


Defining Florida Dram Shop Laws

The Dram Shop statute in Florida basically says, okay, I know in other states in the country, you can hold a bar responsible if they serve somebody who is visibly intoxicated and they go and they hurt someone or kill someone. In Florida, it has to be proven that the bar or establishment is actually known to have served habitual addicts. In § 768.125, Florida code stipulates: “A person who sells or furnishes alcoholic beverages to a person of lawful drinking age shall not thereby become liable for injury or damage caused by or resulting from the intoxication of such person.”

A dram shop is simply the government’s term for a bar or tavern or another establishment that sells liquor, a term derived from the dram measurement by which alcohol used to be sold.

Florida Dram Shop Laws: Limited Liability

The two exceptions to the rule – the cases in which an establishment can be held liable under Florida dram shop laws – are:

  • Sale to a Minor
  • Sale to a “Habitually Addicted” Person


So they have to know something about the person they’re serving. They have to know they’re not only drunk at that moment, potentially, or visibly intoxicated, but they also have a habit and routine of getting drunk. So they have to almost be a “regular” customer of the establishment. So, in Florida it’s a lot tougher burden than it is in other states. The term “knowingly” means that the licensee must have knowingly served a person who’s a habitual alcohol addict. A case called Peoples Restaurant v. Sabo, 591 So.2d 907, 908 (Fla. 1991) illustrates the kinds of facts that will satisfy this requirement.


According to Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV), in 2022, there were approximately 5,232 alcohol-only, drunk driving-related crashes in Florida. There were over 3,052 injuries and 406 fatalities.


Like other kinds of injury claims, Florida dram shop liability cases must be filed in court before the expiration of a deadline called the “statute of limitations.” Florida generally requires negligence-based injury claims like these to be filed within two years from the date of injury. (See Fla. Stat. § 95.11(4)(a) (2023).) If you try to file your case after the two year limitation period has run out, the court will have no choice but to dismiss it.


Watch Our YouTube Video On This Topic >


Dram shop liability cases can be tricky. Because they might involve other Florida car accident statutes, you need to understand how courts have interpreted and applied those statutes in cases of alcohol-related Florida car accidents.



1. Call the police and file a report
2. Swap information (including any insurance info they may have)
3. Gather details
4. Take pictures
5. Gather contact information of any witnesses
6. Seek medical care immediately for any injuries – no matter how minor you think they might be.

Get more helpful information on what to do after an accident here at our “Car Wreck Checklist” >

Joe Zarzaur is a Board Certified Civil Trial Attorney whose firm is dedicated to promoting community safety since 2007. ZARZAUR LAW’S AREAS OF PRACTICE: Serious Personal Injury, Product Defect, Auto Accidents, Cycling Accidents, Motor Vehicle Accidents, Products Liability, Wrongful Death, Community Safety, Boat and Jet Ski Accidents, Slip and Fall Injuries, and more. Licensed in Alabama and Florida.

If you’ve been the victim of an auto accident, it’s important that you don’t make any rash decisions. Put yourself in the best possible position to receive the justice you deserve. It is also important to consult with a Board Certified Trial lawyer who has the knowledge and experience to help you. We know accidents can be stressful and want to make the process as easy as possible for you. Call Zarzaur Law, P.A. today at (855) Hire-Joe, or by requesting a free case review through our website.