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When Teens Drive Drunk: What the Wisconsin Dram Shop Law Means To Your Wisconsin Wrongful Death Claim

Many states have “dram shop” laws, which allow the families of drunk driving victims to file a claim against the establishment that provided alcohol to the driver. In Wisconsin, we believe in personal responsibility. A driver who chooses do get behind the wheel while intoxicated is considered to be fully responsible for his actions. There is one exception.

When a driver under age 21 becomes intoxicated and causes injury to another person, a “dram shop” claim is possible against the person or establishment who served the alcohol to the underage drinker. Wisconsin dram shop law applies whether the alcohol was served in a bar or by an individual.

  • Example 1: It is Ani’s 21st birthday. Her friends at UW-Madison want to celebrate, but her best friend Liz isn’t 21. Liz “borrows” an ID so she can celebrate with Ani. Although the hair color and height aren’t quite right, the bouncer barely glances at the ID before letting the group into the bar. Liz orders several rounds of pink drinks with umbrellas. At the end of the evening, Liz gets into her car to head home. She crashes into another vehicle. An elderly couple is killed. Wisconsin dram shop law allows the bar that served Liz to be held liable for the deaths.
  • Example 2: A group of teens get together to celebrate the end of summer. They convince an older sibling to provide them with beer. After several beers, the teens decide to drive to a nearby lake. On the way to the lake, they crash into a tree. Two teens die, and two more are seriously injured. Under Wisconsin law, the sibling who provided the beer can be held liable for the accident. He may even be held liable for the driver’s injuries.

Every Wisconsin drunk driving accident is a preventable tragedy. If you and your family have lost a loved one to a drunk driver, you deserve accountability. Our Madison OWI accident injury attorneys can help. To learn more about Wisconsin wrongful death claims and the dram shop law, contact Hupy and Abraham at 800-800-5678.

Jason F. Abraham
Managing Partner, Hupy and Abraham