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Colorado Dram Shop Law

March 30, 2022

Drunk driving is one of the most common causes of serious and fatal car accidents in Colorado. Despite it being against the law, thousands of people drink and drive each year. While most DUI accident victims know that they can hold a drunk driver financially responsible, they may not realize that a third party could also be held liable: the dram shop that supplied the alcohol.

Colorado Dram Shop Law

What Is Colorado’s Dram Shop Law?

A dram shop refers to any type of store, restaurant, bar or establishment that is licensed to sell alcohol. It earned this name because alcohol used to be sold in increments called “drams.” A vendor who sells or furnishes alcohol to customers must do so responsibly. Otherwise, it could be liable for related accidents, crimes and injuries caused by an intoxicated patron.

A dram shop law can hold an alcohol vendor legally responsible (liable) for a drunk driving accident, in certain circumstances. According to Colorado’s dram shop law, Colorado Revised Statutes Section 12-47-801, there are two situations in which an injured victim can file a liability claim against a licensed alcohol vendor.

The first scenario is that the intoxicated individual was under 21 years of age (the legal drinking age in Colorado). All licensed vendors must check the IDs of their patrons before serving alcohol. The second is if the individual was visibly intoxicated but the dram shop served the patron anyway. If a vendor breaches one of these duties of care, it can be held liable for related injuries caused by the intoxicated person.

Social Host Liability in Colorado

When a non-vendor is held liable as a third party for injuries caused by someone who is intoxicated, it is known as social host liability. Unlike a dram shop, a social host in Colorado cannot be held liable for injuries caused by an adult who is 21 or older, even if the host overserved the person at a party. However, a social host could face liability for an accident caused by an intoxicated minor if the host knew the minor was under 21.

How to Prove a Dram Shop Liability Claim

If an intoxicated individual injured you in a drunk driving collision or physical assault, contact an attorney to investigate. A law firm can conduct a comprehensive investigation into the cause of your injuries, as well as whether the alcohol vendor can be held accountable for serving someone underage or overserving a patron. If so, your accident lawyer can preserve related evidence against the dram shop or social host, which may include:

  • Statements from eyewitnesses or other patrons
  • Interviews with the dram shop staff
  • Photographs and video footage of the incident
  • The individual’s blood alcohol concentration level
  • Surveillance footage from inside the shop
  • A police or accident report
  • Arrest records
  • Medical records
  • Testimony from subject-matter experts

As the filing party, or plaintiff, in a dram shop liability claim in Colorado, you have the burden of proof. This means that you or your lawyer must establish that dram shop liability is more likely to be true than not true (a ponderance of the evidence). If you meet the burden of proof, the alcohol vendor’s insurance company will cover your medical bills and other losses. If the intoxicated individual does not have enough insurance to fully cover your losses, the dram shop can supplement your claim.

Time Limits for Filing a Dram Shop Claim in Colorado

If you wish to hold one or more parties responsible for losses associated with an intoxicated individual, you must file your claim within Colorado’s statute of limitations (legal deadline) for a valid lawsuit. For a dram shop liability lawsuit, the statute of limitations is one year from the date of the incident. For a drunk driving accident lawsuit against the driver, you have three years. Contact an attorney as soon as possible to ensure you file your claim on time.