Drunk driving continues to plague roadways, including those in Missouri

Undoubtedly, one of the biggest threats to highway safety in the nation today is drunk driving. In fact, according to report issued by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), alcohol-impaired vehicle accidents resulted in an alarming 10,322 traffic fatalities on U.S. roadways in 2012 - up 4.6 percent from the year before. Sadly, these drunk-driving deaths accounted for roughly 31 percent of all traffic fatalities in 2012.

Unfortunately, it appears no jurisdiction has been spared from the deadly epidemic, including Missouri. For instance, in Missouri alone there were 218 and 208 deaths attributed to drunk driving accidents in 2010 and 2011, respectively, according to the Missouri State Highway Patrol.

Liability following a Missouri drunk driving accident

Even though those responsible for drunk driving accidents will likely face criminal liability for their actions, it is important to remember that the victims of these accidents - or their families in instances where the victims tragically perish - can seek to hold the drivers responsible in civil court as well.

However, potential liability does not always end with the driver, especially in jurisdictions such as Missouri, which has Dram Shop laws in place. Essentially, Dram Shop laws allow victims of drunk driving accidents to hold bars or taverns liable for their injuries if the establishments over served alcohol to the drunk driver prior to accident.

Dram Shop laws in Missouri

While Missouri courts generally follows English common law when it comes to drunk driving liability - which presumes that furnishing alcohol cannot be considered the proximate cause of injuries inflicted by drunk drivers - there are some very important exceptions to this rule for bars and taverns.

Specifically, Missouri law states bars and taverns can be held liable for injuries sustained by third-party victims, but only when there is "clear and convincing" evidence that the drunk driver that caused the injuries was served alcohol even though the bartender knew, or should have known, that the patron was already visibly intoxicated or under the age of 21.

Ultimately, the question of liability in Dram Shop cases can be quite complex, which is why it is always best to consult with an experienced drunk-driving accident attorney if you or a loved one has been injured by a drunk driver. A knowledgeable attorney can assist in investigating the cause of your accident and help determine which parties may or may not be liable given the facts.