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Two beers on a bar table

Does Wisconsin Have Dram Shop Laws?

After being seriously injured in a drunk driving accident in Wisconsin, you will understandably want to hold as many parties as possible accountable for your injuries and financial damages. The drunk driver is an obvious choice when naming a liable party in a claim or a defendant in a lawsuit. But what happens if the drunk driver who hit you had just left a bar, restaurant, or social gathering that provided them with arguably too much alcohol? Does Wisconsin have dram shop laws that let you hold alcohol vendors and social hosts liable for the mistakes of their guests?

No, Wisconsin does not currently have dram shop laws in the same way that other states do. For the most part, you cannot try to hold a liquor store, restaurant, bar, or social host liable for drunk driving accidents caused by their patrons and guests. Even if a bar or host intentionally provided more and more alcohol to someone who looked intoxicated and had previously announced that they were driving home at the end of the night, there are no dram shop and social host liability laws in Wisconsin that would extend liability beyond the drunk person.

Two Exceptions to Wisconsin’s Limited Dram Shop Laws

Bars and social hosts in Wisconsin can’t become liable for the drunk driving accidents caused by their patrons and guests after giving them alcohol, but only under normal and lawful circumstances.

The two prominent exceptions to the state’s essentially defunct dram shop laws are:

  • Knowingly underage drinking: Dram shop laws can apply if a social host, bartender, or liquor store clerk provides or sells alcohol to someone that they know or reasonably should know is not 21 or older. If a drunk underage driver causes a crash later, and there is evidence to suggest the host or proprietor knowingly gave that person alcohol, then that third party could be a named defendant in a drunk driving claim or lawsuit. For example, credible eyewitness testimonies from other partygoers might reveal that a party host encouraged or allowed an underage guest to drink alcohol.
  • Bullying or deception: Wisconsin also sometimes allows drunk driving accident claims to be filed against party hosts, bars, and shops if such defendants intentionally deceived or bullied a driver into consuming alcohol. For example, a bar could be liable if someone caused a crash after drinking a cocktail that was sold to them as being alcohol-free. Or a social host could be liable if they forced a guest to drink against their will.

Were you in a drunk driving accident that was not your fault and you think a bar or social host might have contributed to it? Contact Dunk Law Firm, PLLC in Milwaukee to discuss your case during a free initial consultation. We can help determine who are the liable parties, including party hosts and bars if Wisconsin’s limited dram shop laws happen to apply.

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