A group of people raising a toast

Drunk drivers are responsible for the accidents, injuries, and deaths that they cause. You have the right to pursue a car accident lawsuit or wrongful death case against a drunk driver and to seek damages from that driver. However, drunk drivers may not be the only ones legally responsible for the crash.

Business Liability for Drunk Driving Accidents

Iowa Code 123.92 allows a person who was hurt by a drunk driver to hold a bar, restaurant, or another vendor with a license or permit to sell alcohol liable for a drunk driving accident in certain situations. While the business owners and employees were not present at the time of the crash, the business may be responsible for paying drunk driving accident injuries if it sold or served alcohol to a person who appeared intoxicated.

This type of law is known as a dram shop law. A dram is a unit for measuring liquid, and historically, some establishments sold alcoholic beverages by the dram. Today, the term dram shop law refers to laws concerning the liability of bars, restaurants, stores, and other locations that are licensed to sell alcohol.

Iowa’s dram shop law holds businesses legally responsible for drunk driving crashes if the business sold or served alcohol to a visibly intoxicated person because intoxication is a foreseeable and proximate cause of a drunk driving crash.

If you decide to bring a case against a business pursuant to Iowa’s dram shop law, then you must provide the business with notice of your claim within six months of your injury. However, you still have two years to file your personal injury case against the business and the drunk driver.

A Dram Shop Exception

Iowa law creates a complicity exception to its dram shop law. For example, if two friends are out drinking together and one friend hurts the other friend in a drunk driving crash after leaving the establishment, then the injured friend may not bring a case against the establishment that served both friends alcohol.

Social Host Liability in Iowa

Some states also hold social hosts responsible for drunk driving crashes in certain situations. However, there is no social host liability in Iowa. Iowa law maintains that alcohol consumption, not the serving of alcohol, is the proximate cause of drunk driving crashes. Therefore, social hosts are not liable for drunk driving accidents.

Who Should You Recover from After a Drunk Driving Accident?

Don’t worry about making this decision alone. After an Iowa drunk driving accident, you have the right to bring a personal injury or wrongful death case against the drunk driver. Even if a criminal case is pending, a personal injury lawsuit may allow you to recover for at least some of your past and future:

  • Medical expenses
  • Lost income
  • Out-of-pocket costs
  • Physical pain
  • Emotional suffering

Unfortunately, drunk driving crashes often cause catastrophic injuries or death. The intoxicated driver may not have enough insurance or personal assets to fully compensate you for your losses. However, the business that sold or served the alcohol may have the necessary resources to pay your damages.

Our experienced Iowa accident lawyers will look at your drunk driving case from every angle and aggressively pursue fair compensation from every person or business that may be liable.

We encourage you to contact us as soon as possible after a crash so that we can be sure all legal deadlines are met and the insurance company doesn’t try to trick you into a low settlement. The insurance company is not on your side, but Iowa insurers know that we mean business. If they don’t treat you fairly, we are not afraid to go to court to protect your rights.

Call us, start a live chat with us, or complete our contact form today to have us contact you to schedule a free consultation. We would be happy to meet with you by phone or videoconference, in your home or hospital room, or in our Cedar Rapids, Davenport, or Des Moines office.


Jason F. Abraham
Connect with me
Helping car accident and personal injury victims throughout Wisconsin, Illinois and Iowa since 1993.