Blurry image of a open bar

Anyone who chooses to consume alcohol and drive becomes a danger to everyone on the road. If you are hurt in a collision with a drunk driver, that driver deserves a large share of the blame for choosing to drive under the influence. In some cases, however, the person who served the driver alcohol may share part of the responsibility.

Tennessee has what is known as a “dram shop law,” meaning that someone who sells alcohol to a person who is either already very intoxicated or a minor can sometimes be held liable for injuries that person caused. If you have been hurt in an accident with a drunk driver, an experienced attorney can help you determine whether you might be able to bring a dram shop claim as well.

Attorney David E. Gordon has years of experience fighting for personal injury victims in Memphis and the surrounding area. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation on your car accident claim.


Under Tennessee law, there is a narrow set of circumstances that will allow you to bring a dram shop claim if you are injured by an intoxicated person. If your case does not check every box, you will likely not have a successful dram shop claim. The law lays out three specific requirements:

  • The defendant sold the alcohol in question.
  • The person who bought the alcohol was either a minor or already “visibly intoxicated.”
  • This sale of alcohol was a direct cause of the injury.

A successful dram shop claim will require you not only to assert but to prove all three of these requirements. The absence of any of them will likely sink your claim. For example, if someone gave a drink to a person for free at a house party instead of selling it to them at a bar, the party host who provided the alcohol could not be held liable. Tennessee, after all, only has a dram shop law on the books, not a social host liability law, which would be required for that sort of claim.

If your case satisfies all the requirements, you might be eligible to file a dram shop claim against the bartender or vendor who sold alcohol to the person who caused your injury. However, you must do so within one year, which is the statute of limitations for dram shop claims in Tennessee.


Proving the three requirements listed above may be more difficult than it seems, as Tennessee law requires a higher standard of evidence in dram shop claims than most states do. You must prove “beyond a reasonable doubt” that all the requirements were met. This standard, which is usually reserved for criminal cases instead of civil lawsuits, requires you to prove that there is no other reasonable explanation for the person’s actions and how your injury occurred.

Meeting this standard will require a significant amount of evidence. Witness reports will be especially important, particularly in proving that the person was “visibly intoxicated” and that the bartender did indeed serve the person past that point. Witness reports and police reports can both help to establish that the person was driving drunk, which would in turn help to prove that the sale of alcohol was a direct cause of the accident.

These and other types of evidence involved in these cases are easiest to gather in the immediate aftermath of an accident, so it is essential to seek out witnesses as soon as possible and to immediately call the authorities to the scene of a car crash. A dram shop lawyer can help you gather the relevant evidence to build a compelling case against the bartender or another alcohol vendor.


Bringing a dram shop claim in Tennessee is very similar to bringing a personal injury suit against the person who caused the accident. In fact, you might do both. The types of damages you may be able to recover in a dram shop claim are essentially the same as those you could recover in a standard personal injury lawsuit, including:

  • Cost of medical bills
  • Cost of property repairs or replacement
  • Lost wages due to time missed from work
  • Pain and suffering damages

It is important to note that a dram shop claim is separate from a claim against the intoxicated person who caused the accident. Although dram shop claims are tough to bring in Tennessee, they can be a very powerful tool for recovering extra compensation to help with your recovery. If you suspect a dram shop claim might be possible in your case, do not hesitate to ask your attorney about bringing one.


Bartenders who serve minors or who continue to serve patrons who are already very intoxicated put everyone in danger. At The Law Office of David E. Gordon, we believe that reckless alcohol vendors should be held accountable for their actions.

If an intoxicated person has injured you or someone you love, and you believe an irresponsible sale of alcohol might have been to blame, we can help you pursue a dram shop claim. Call us now at (901) 818-4889 for a free consultation with a Memphis dram shop lawyer.

The Law Offices of David E. Gordon

The Law Offices of David E. Gordon