Liability limits for Dram Shop Act cases raised

Illinois bar, restaurants, and other licensed liquor establishments can be held liable under a statute called the Dram Shop Act for injuries caused by persons who become intoxicated at their place of business.  The major category that this includes is drunk drivers who cause car accidents, but it can also include intoxicated people who assault somone else.There is a cap in the Dram Shop Act as to how much the bar can be held liable for.  This figure is adjusted every year on January 20 to account for inflation. The caps for injuries or deaths occurring after January 20, 2010 are:

  • For cases invovling non-fatal injuries, the cap is $60,247.68; and
  • For cases involving wrongful death, the cap is $73,636.05.

The statute of limitations for Dram Shop Act cases is one year.  People who were injured during the year before January 20, 2010 can recover damages under the Dram Shop Act only up to the amount of the 2009 cap.  Those amounts are:

  • For cases involving non-fatal injuries, the cap is $58,652.33; and
  • For cases involving wrongful death, the cap is $71,686.18.

Because the amounts that can be recovered with claims under the Dram Shop Act are so low, insurance companies who defend bars that are sued under the Dram Shop Act are very slow to make reasonable settlement offers.  Their attitude is that since there is only so much they can lose, there is little to risk in taking a flyer on the chance that a jury will return a “not guilty” verdict.  This means that these types of cases very rarely settle.  Drunk drivers are responsible for many serious injuries each year, and the Dram Shop Act is an important avenue for victims of drunk drivers to recover full compensation for their injuries.  Because the insurers for dram shops frequently will not settle cases in a reasonable way and because there is such a short statute of limitations, we strongly recommend hiring an experienced Chicago personal injury lawyer to handle these types of cases.