Personal injury Library

How Do You Identify the Defendant in a First-Party Dram Shop Case?

  • Last Updated: March 3rd, 2023
  • By: Mike Grossman
  • Dram Shop

In order to have a dram shop case, you first need to identify who the bar is.

In most personal injury or wrongful death cases, it's not terribly difficult to determine the negligent defendant's identity. We simply obtain the defendant's name from the police report, or the client tells us who the wrongdoer was, and we sue them.

But the sad reality is that most first-party dram shop cases involve a recipient of alcohol who was over-served to such an extent that they got into a bad accident and died, usually in a single-vehicle accident. The family members left behind often know that their now-deceased loved one was drinking at a bar, and the toxicology results indicate that they were grossly over-served somewhere, but the family usually does not know exactly what bar the victim was drinking at.

Obviously, this presents something of a dilemma, so the very first step in many dram shop cases is to identifying the negligent bar that over-served our client. Below, we'll discuss the methods our attorneys typically use to identify which bar or restaurant over served the victim to such an extent that they then hurt or killed themselves in a drunken driving accident.

Questions answered on this page:

  • How do I know which bar is responsible for over-serving?
  • If a drunk driver dies in an accident, how do you know which bar they were at?
  • How can a lawyer help with a drunk driving lawsuit?

Methods For Tracking Down Where the Alcohol Service Took Place

The dram shop lawyers at Grossman Law Offices have represented a large number of first-person plaintiffs in these types of cases. We'll explain how we identify the proper defendants using a common scenario we have faced: a young person crashes her car into a tree after being over-served at a bar and dies. Since she is no longer with us to tell us where she was drinking and how much she was served, we have to look elsewhere.

  • Phone Records - We go look through the lost young woman's phone records to see whom she might have called the night she was out drinking. Some of these individuals may know where she was, or might even have been present prior to the crash. If it is your daughter or wife, you might have access to those records yourself. If not, we can subpoena them ourselves. The subpoena process can take a very long time, if you can find them yourself, it will likely increase the speed with which your case proceeds
  • Social Media - With the spread of social media, it is common for people's actions to leave a digital trail behind. We will look at the young woman's Facebook account, as well as Twitter, Foursquare, and other social media outlets, to see if she "checked in" at the establishment at which she was drinking.
  • Bank and Credit Card Records - Financial records can provide key insight into where someone was, and what they were doing. If the last place the young woman used her credit card was a bar and she crashed fairly soon after the transaction went through, we're clearly on the right track. Further, this evidence may well be able to tell us how much she was drinking, which will prove extremely useful later on in the case.
  • Witnesses - Perhaps in the days since the accident, friends or family have reached out and said that they knew where the young woman was. We will investigate every promising lead to find out what these people know and get their statements on the record.

Once we get as much of this information as possible, we will then send a letter making the bar or restaurant aware that they may not, under any circumstances, destroy any potential evidence at their establishment. This spoliation letter will further conserve the evidence we need to prove that, in fact, our client had been drinking at the bar, how much, and when.

Identifying Defendants Requires Both The Right Lawyer and the Right Investigative Team

Identifying proper defendants is not an easy task in most first-person dram shop cases. An experienced lawyer with seasoned investigative skills can cut through the clutter and find out who may well be responsible. Grossman Law Offices, based in Dallas, TX, has time and again proven defendants' involvement in these types of cases, and we're ready to do the same for you. Call us now at (855) 326-0000 to see how we can help you with your case.

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