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Who is liable in a drunk driving crash? Here's one surprising answer.

A recent case involving a Hooters restaurant, a drunken patron and a police officer is gaining national attention. The players are enough to catch most people's attention and the issue is one that impacts families throughout the country.

What happened? The case begins early in the evening on December 3rd, when a patron decided to stop at a Hooters restaurant. While there for many hours, the man imbibed in numerous alcoholic beverages, including multiple beers and whiskeys.

The patron then decided to get behind the wheel. While driving, he came across a stopped police vehicle and passenger car. The police officer had stopped another vehicle as part of a drunk driving enforcement effort that was in effect over the holidays.

The patron's vehicle struck the police car and the officer. The officer suffered serious injuries and died in the hospital a week later.

Who is responsible for this accident? There is no doubt that the driver himself holds responsibility for the car accident that caused the death of this officer. Evidence shows that he had a blood alcohol content of 0.22, well over the legal limit.

However, this case also brings attention to an interesting and often forgotten area of law: dram shop liability.

This area of law is used when an establishment serving alcoholic beverages is responsible for resulting injuries if the patron later gets into an accident. In some cases, the customer is clearly drunk. If a business continues to sell this customer alcohol they may be held responsible for the patron's actions.

Why is dram shop liability important? There are two main reasons dram shop liability is important. First off, it provides additional compensation for those who are impacted by these accidents. This allows families to cover the costs associated with the accident and attempt to get life back to as normal of a routine as possible.

Secondly, it also serves as a deterrent. In this case, the restaurant was forced to shut down as a result of this case. Other businesses will likely take note and think twice before serving an inebriated patron. 

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