Free Consultation
Call Us (720) 379-6363
Text Us (719) 534-3132
Call Us (720) 379-6363
Text Us (719) 534-3132
 Image One  Image Two  Image Three

Can Bars in Colorado Be Held Liable for DUI Accidents?

May 15, 2024

A car accident caused by driving under the influence, or DUI, may not only be the legal fault of the drunk driver. In Colorado, bars and other establishments that serve alcohol can also be held accountable for DUI accidents in certain circumstances.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a DUI accident, consult with a Denver drunk driving accident lawyer to explore all of your legal options.

man driving

Determining Liability for a DUI Accident in Colorado

Most DUI accident victims know they can hold the intoxicated driver liable, or legally and financially responsible, for causing the car accident. Drunk drivers can engage in reckless behaviors that result in preventable collisions, such as speeding, red-light running and driving the wrong way.

Colorado is a fault state, meaning injured crash victims have the right to hold the driver or party who is at fault for causing the crash liable. However, a rule in Colorado known as the dram shop law (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 44-3-801) also gives injured car accident victims the right to hold a bar or restaurant liable for contributing to a drunk driving crash in some circumstances.

What Is Colorado’s Dram Shop Law?

The state’s dram shop law protects bars and other establishments that sell alcohol from liability for “any injury to the individual or damage to any property suffered because of the intoxication of any person due to the sale or service of any alcohol beverage to the person, except when:


  • It is proven that the licensee willfully and knowingly sold or served any alcohol beverage to the person who was under the age of twenty-one years or who was visibly intoxicated; and
  • The civil action is commenced within one year after the sale or service.”

Under this law, a bar in Colorado could be held liable for a DUI accident if a bartender or employee knowingly served alcohol to someone underage or overserved a patron who was visibly intoxicated. However, the claim against the bar must be brought within one year of the sale of the alcohol to the drunk driver.

Conditions for Bringing a Dram Shop Liability Claim in Colorado

To have grounds to hold a bar or restaurant responsible for a DUI accident in Colorado, you or your car accident lawyer in Denver must establish the required legal elements of a dram shop claim. In general, you must prove the following as more likely to be true than not true:

  • The bartender or server had actual or constructive knowledge that the patron was underage or visibly intoxicated.
  • The bartender or server willfully and knowingly furnished the patron with alcohol anyway.
  • The service of alcohol to the patron was a proximate cause of the subsequent DUI car accident.
  • The injury or damage caused by the patron was a foreseeable outcome of serving alcohol to the person.

Constructive knowledge means knowledge that a person should have using reasonable care and diligence. Signs of visible intoxication may include slurred speech, bloodshot eyes, unsteady movements and impaired motor skills.

Discuss Your Legal Options With a DUI Accident Attorney

A dram shop case does not replace a legal action against a drunk driver. It is a second and separate cause of action that you may be able to bring against an establishment to hold both the bar and the intoxicated driver liable for your losses. To discuss all of your legal options in more detail with an attorney, contact The Fang Law Firm to request a free consultation.