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Should Baltimore bars be held liable for drunk driving crashes?

More than 40 states hold businesses partially accountable for drunk driving accidents when crashes are caused by patrons who are over-served alcohol by businesses. However, Maryland is not one of those states.

When patrons are over-served alcohol, leave bars, and cause serious or fatal car accidents, victims and their families in Baltimore may be able to seek compensation from drunk drivers for their injuries, pain, suffering, lost wages and medical expenses, but they are not able to seek compensation from establishments for their roles in drunk driving accidents. This could change, though.

One family left devastated by a drunk driving accident is asking the Maryland Court of Appeals to hold a tavern responsible for the car crash that took the life of their loved one and injured others. If the court decides to rule in favor of the family and hold the tavern responsible for the drunk driver's actions after leaving the bar, the ruling could result in Maryland lawmakers approving dram shop laws in the near future to better protect crash victims.

The family was harmed in the drunk driving accident in 2008. While traveling on Interstate 270, the family's vehicle was struck from behind by a driver that had been speeding. A 10-year-old girl died in the crash and her older sister suffered a broken hip. The children's grandfather had been driving when they were struck by the speeding vehicle. The grandfather now suffers from congestive heart failure and has been left emotionally traumatized by the accident and the loss of his grandchild.

After the fatal accident, police discovered that the driver who had caused the crash was drunk. He was served more than 15 beers at a tavern before leaving the establishment and causing the crash. He has since been sentenced to serve eight years in prison. Although the driver has been held accountable for the fatal accident, the family also wants to make sure that the tavern is held partially responsible for the crash because it had served alcohol to an individual who was clearly too intoxicated to drink more alcohol.

The family presented their case earlier this month. The court has yet to issue a decision. If the Maryland Court of Appeals rules in favor of the family, the ruling may mean that the family could request to obtain compensation from the tavern to cover damages resulting from the drunk driving accident.

Source: CBS Baltimore, "Md. Court Weighs Liability of Bars in DUI cases," March 12, 2013

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