While it is common knowledge that drunk driving in Alaska is both illegal and dangerous, many people injured in drunk driving accidents may not be fully aware of all the remedies available to them. For instance, even though it is typically self-evident that drunk driving victims may be able to hold the intoxicated drivers themselves liable for any injuries, many victims may not know that the bars and taverns that served the drunk drivers in the first place may also be responsible in certain situations. Indeed, this type of legal accountability is more commonly known in Alaska as Dram Shop liability.

Specifics of Alaska's Dram Shop statute

Interestingly, the Dram Shop statute in Alaska initially provides immunity from civil liability for licensed alcohol providers - such as bars and taverns - when an intoxicated patron causes injury to others. However, there are two important exceptions to this liability shield, which are:

  • When the licensed establishment provides alcohol to a person under the age of 21, unless this person provides identification indicating he or she is older than 21
  • When the licensed establishment provides alcohol to a "drunken person" in violation of Alaskan law

In many instances, it is the second exception listed above that often leads to potential liability for bars. For instance, under Alaska law, a licensed establishment may not sell or give alcohol to a drunken person with criminal negligence - typically defined under the law as when person fails to perceive a substantial risk that a reasonable person would normally observe in such a situation, thus constituting a "gross deviation" from the established standard of care.

However, before a drunk driving accident victim can establish Dram Shop liability, he or she must also be able to show that the bar patron was "drunken" when served alcohol. Importantly, the definition as to what is considered "drunken" under state law involves two statutory requirements. For example, a person is drunken when (1) his or her "physical or mental conduct is substantially impaired" due to alcohol consumption and (2) he or she exhibits plain and easily observed "outward manifestations" of behavior common to the excess intake of alcohol. These outward manifestations can include a variety of characteristics, such as slurred speak or difficulty walking.

Establishing liability may require legal assistance

Obviously, it is nearly impossible to outline everything a victim needs to know about Dram Shop liability in a single article - meaning the information contained herein should not be relied upon as legal advice. Consequently, if you or a loved one has been injured by a drunk driver and believe a bar or tavern may be partially to blame, it is best to seek the counsel of a knowledgeable car accident injury attorney. An experienced attorney can help explain your options as well as assist in investigating the cause of your accident.