Alcohol Related

Theories of Liability

People often wonder how courts determine who is to be paid money damages – a court ordered award – in an accident case. That depends upon what is presented and proven at trial (see preserving accident evidence, evidence & the burden of proof, conflicts of evidence,consistency in evidence, when to hire an attorney), the type of injuries and the extent of injuries, among other factors. All of which rest of the question of who is responsible, hence liable for the accident. Who caused the accident?

In the State of Iowa, anyone who is injured, disabled, permanently disabled or killed in a car, truck, motorcycle, bus or other vehicle accident due to the negligence or wrongdoing of someone else may seek and obtain compensation for their injuries from the person that is at fault.


In Iowa, negligence is generally defined as conduct that falls below the standard established by law for the protection of others against unreasonable risk of harm.

In other words if your injuries are caused by an individual, corporation or other entity acting or failing to act in a reasonable manner, you may be entitled to compensation. This includes injuries resulting from car, truck or motorcycle accidents.

Drunk Drivers

Drunk drivers are legally responsible for the death and injuries resulting from their actions. There are a number of ways that a person can be required to pay for injuries and deaths that occur from their drunk driving behavior. Drunk driving in the State of Iowa can be proven by establishing that the offending driver had an alcohol concentration in excess of .08; had a drug or controlled substance in their system; or was “under the influence” of alcohol, drug, or combination of alcohol or drug, at the time of the collision.

It is not enough to just show that the offending driver was over the legal limit or had a controlled substance present in their system at the time of the accident for an injured person to be compensated by the offending driver’s insurance company. Rather the injured party must be able to prove that the alcohol, drug or a combination thereof, was a “proximate cause” of the accident and resulting injury or death. This requires the attorney representing the injured person or family to understand both the legal and scientific nuances that are associated with drunk driving cases.

At GRL Law we have some of the foremost recognized and specialized drunk driving trial lawyers in the State of Iowa on our team. They have been specially trained and educated on both the science and law associated with alcohol related claims and speak at seminars on that topic every year across the state. Just as important, GRL Law has access to the best and brightest expert witnesses in this field of law to assist in the development and prosecution of these types of cases. If ensuring that you or your family is represented by lawyers that are leaders in their field, GRL Law is the law firm you want on your side for alcohol related claims.

Bar Responsibility

What is Iowa’s Dram Shop Act?

The Iowa Dram Shop Act is a law that allows someone who has been injured by an intoxicated person to sue and recover monetary damaged from the bar, restaurant or other license establishment who served the intoxicated person the alcohol.  The most common Iowa Dram Shop claim is when a person is served too much alcohol at a bar, then leaves the bar while too intoxicated, and subsequently is involved in a car accident that injures another person.  Another common Iowa Dram Shop claim is when a drunk bar patron attacks or assaults one or more people at a bar or outside of the bar.   Liability exists under the Dram Shop Act when the bar owner, liquor licensee or permittee does either of the following:

  • Sells and serves alcohol to an intoxicated person when the licensee or permittee knew or should have known the person was intoxicated;  OR
  • Sells and serves the person to a point where the licensee or permittee knew or should   have known the person would become intoxicated.
  • And; The injured party plaintiff was injured in person, property or means of support by the patron while the patron was intoxicated or as a result of the patron’s intoxication.

In addition, for an injured party to recover under the Dram Shop Act, the injured party must establish that the patron of the Dram Shop was intoxicated.  A person is “intoxicated” when one or more of the following are true: (1) the person’s reason or mental ability has been affected; (2) the person’s judgment is impaired; (3) the person’s emotions are visibly excited; and (4) the person has, to any extent, lost control of bodily actions or motions.

Who is liable under Iowa’s Dram Shop Act?

Liability under the Dram Shop Act is limited to licensees and permittees. That means that there are limitations upon who you can sue. The bar or other drinking establishment including restaurants must have a license to serve alcohol. The “sell and serve” language of the Dram Shop Act requires the alcoholic beverages be sold and actually served for consumption on the seller’s premises before Dram Shop liability may be imposed. Therefore, you cannot sue a grocery store or gas station under Iowa’s Dram Shop Act because neither grocery stores nor gas stations have licenses to actually serve alcohol for consumption on premises, rather they merely sell alcohol.

What can I recover?

Many people who have been injured by an intoxicated person may not know the scope of the damages they may recover. The following is a brief overview of the possible damages an injured person may recover. First and most importantly are damages known as personal injury. A personal injury plaintiff may receive damages for medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, loss of body function and all other damages intended to compensate the injured party allowed under law. Second, if the injuries suffered by the party result in death, there are Wrongful Death Damages. The administrator or executor of the estate of an individual killed by an intoxicated person can recover wrongful death damages against the bar or restaurant liable under the Dram Shop Act. Consortium claims of a spouse, parent or child are recoverable. These are damages intended to compensate those related to the injured party for the loss of “intangible” benefits of the relationship with the injured or deceased party.

It is also possible that there may be more than one bar or restaurant liable for the injuries or death of the party and therefore the Iowa Dram Shop Act provides for Joint and Several Liability. Where a bar or restaurant is found liable under the Dram Shop Act, that licensee may be held jointly and severally liable for damages for other liable licensees or permittees.

What should I do if myself or a family member has been injured by an intoxicated person?

The first and most important thing you can do is talk to a lawyer who is knowledgeable about Iowa’s Dram Shop Act and can provide you with the assistance of filing your claim and walk you through every step of the process. We will work to ensure that you receive the best outcome possible and receive the compensation you deserve.

Social Host Liability In Iowa

So a person is having a party at their house and many of the guests are consuming alcohol. Have you ever wondered whether they would be liable if one of the guests subsequently left the home and was involved in a car accident where another person was injured? Can the injured party sue the host for supplying the guest with alcohol?

The short answer is that in Iowa, social hosts are immune from these types of lawsuits. This is called Iowa Social Host Immunity. This was not always the case. Prior to 1999, hosts who served alcohol to intoxicated guests could be liable for injuries those guests caused after leaving their homes. However, Iowa ultimately determined that the consumption of alcoholic beverages in private homes, rather than serving them, is the proximate cause of alcohol related injuries. Therefore, social hosts are considered immune from liability in most of these cases. This means a person cannot be successfully sued by a person injured by an intoxicated guest after they leave their home.

However, a host who provides a guest with alcohol in violation of the law may still be found responsible for resulting harm to a third party. The most common example is a party in which adults serve alcohol, or allow alcohol to be served, to minors. If these minors become intoxicated and go on to harm someone, most commonly in car crashes, the adult hosts can be liable. Here are two examples that help to illustrate the distinction.

A guest leaves the house in a vehicle and hurts or kills someone else in another vehicle in an alcohol-related accident. In that situation, the host is immune from liability if the sole claim against them stems from the provision of alcohol to the guest. The same would not be said for a business that has an alcoholic beverage license or permit, which would face Dram Shop Liability.

On the other hand, a host may be liable if you provide or allow to be provided, alcohol to an underage guest, someone under the legal drinking age of 21, who then hurts themselves or someone else after leaving your house. Iowa’s social host immunity does not prevent social host liability when the alcohol is provided to someone who is underage.