Happy hour and dram shop laws in Kentucky

In Kentucky, a drunk driver who hits and injures somebody else is not necessarily the only person who can be held liable. The state has a dram shop law that means a bar, restaurant or nightclub that overserves a customer, leading to a drunk driving accident, can also be liable for victims’ damages.

As a reminder, the dram shop law holds a business liable when it serves an obviously intoxicated person and allows that person to drive away if that driver later causes a car accident while still drunk. The idea is that the bar or restaurant’s contribution to the conditions that led to the DUI crash should not be ignored in personal injury law.

However, unlike most states, Kentucky does not impose restrictions on bars, restaurants and clubs that wish to offer happy hours and other drink specials. The only exception is a ban on free drinks beyond a certain sample size. So in “wet” and “moist” counties, at least, we have the seeming contradiction of the law telling bar and restaurant owners not to overserve customers, but letting them offer drinks at significant discounts and two-for-one specials at certain times of the day and night that encourage customers to drink more.

Duty not to overserve still rules

Ultimately, the freedom to offer discounts on drinks as a way of drawing in customers does not erase business’ duty not to overserve. Whatever special the place is running that hour, a customer who is showing signs of being impaired (poor balance and coordination, slurred speech, etc.) should not get served another drink.

Why make a claim against the bar?

For drunk driving victims living with severe disability, or families of those killed by a drunk driver, pursuing a dram shop claim can help. The bar, restaurant or other business that overserved the driver is likely to be better able to cover your damages, especially if the drunk driver was uninsured or underinsured. A personal injury attorney can review your case and explain your options for recovery.


FindLaw Network