News & Events

What is Dram Shop Law?

Posted: March 25, 2021

Drunk driving is a public safety issue. Every year, thousands lose their lives in alcohol-related collisions. In South Carolina, alcohol-impaired driving is the number one cause of fatalities. If you or a loved one has been the victim of a drunk driving wreck, it’s important to know your options for securing fair financial recovery. Read on to learn what you need to know about South Carolina dram shop laws and how they could affect your case.


The term “dram shop” law describes a nuanced area of tort law that is focused on civil liability in connection with the sale, service, and consumption of alcohol. A “dram” is a small unit of liquid. Historically, the term was used to describe a small drink of alcohol. Likewise, a “dram shop” was another name for a bar, tavern, saloon, or some other establishment that served alcohol.

Dram shop litigation holds bars and alcohol retailers accountable for the death, injury, or damages caused by the unsafe service of alcohol to customers who later injure the innocent.

Many times, victims of a drunk driving crash are lead to believe there are only two legal occurrences after the crash:

  1. The criminal DUI prosecution of the drunk driver
  2. A civil claim for victim compensation against the drunk driver.

However, “Victims of drunk driving often also have the legal right to hold establishments financially responsible when they overserve patrons and put drunk drivers on our roads,” says David Lail, a Charleston, South Carolina, dram shop lawyer who co-authored the book Dram Shop Litigation: A Practice Guide for the South Carolina Bar.


If you or a loved one was a victim of a drunk driver, it’s critical that you to explore if you have a dram shop case. If investigation shows that the drunk driver was overserved by an establishment ahead of the wreck, you may be able to recover compensation from the establishment’s insurance company. In South Carolina, many alcohol retailers are now required by state law to have a minimum of $1,000,000 of liability insurance for these situations—a mandate designed to compensate victims. On the other hand, the drunk driver may have no liability insurance at all, or only state minimum limits, which is woefully inadequate to compensate a victim of drunk driving.

“Alcohol sellers are actually in a very unique position to prevent drunk driving because they decide who drinks and how much.”

“I represent victims of drunk driving by bringing claims against alcohol sellers that fail to safely serve alcohol and turn patrons into drunk drivers,” says Lail. “Alcohol sellers are actually in a very unique position to prevent drunk driving because they decide who drinks and how much.  Unfortunately, bars and restaurants often ignore the rules for safe alcohol service and play a primary role in putting drunk drivers on our roads and endangering the public.”

Because proving fault on behalf of an alcohol seller is a difficult task, it’s critical to enlist the help of a skilled dram shop lawyer. Here at Yarborough Applegate, our attorneys have experience proving liability in these tough cases and fighting for the maximum financial compensation drunk driving victims deserve. 

If you or someone you love has been a victim in an alcohol-related collision, contact Yarborough Applegate today to see whether or not a dram shop case is another avenue for justice.

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