While it is always heartbreaking to lose a close family member prematurely in a deadly automobile accident, the sense of grief and outrage is even greater when the driver that causes a fatal collision is driving under the influence of alcohol. Although a driver, passenger or pedestrian who suffers fatal injuries in a collision caused by a drunk driver may have a right to pursue a wrongful death claim against the negligent driver, Kansas law does not recognize dram shop liability.
This means that a social host, bar or restaurant that serves alcohol to an obviously intoxicated or underage driver is not liable via dram shop statute or common law in Kansas. Because of the heavy emotional toll claimed by drunk drivers on wrongful death victims and their families, we hope the legislature will see its way to adopt the majority position in other states that impose dram shop liability on those who serve alcohol to certain drivers who later cause fatal motor vehicle accidents.
While drunk driving deaths have declined slightly in recent years, drunk driving remains the cause of many fatalities. Drunk drivers cause a third of all alcohol related fatal car accidents, and a driver dies in a drunk driving accident every 48 minutes. More than 10,000 people per year suffer wrongful death caused by intoxicated drivers who cause fatal motor vehicle accidents. This means that many families are left without the financial support of a breadwinner, which means that the financial hardships caused by fatal drunk driving accidents only amplifies the emotional hardship of coping with the premature loss of an immediate family member.
Because of the high physical, emotional and financial toll on the families of drunk drivers, it has become time for the Kansas legislature to impose dram shop liability on businesses and social hosts that serve alcohol to obviously intoxicated individuals and those who are under the age of 21. While the victim in a fatal drunk driving accident may pursue a wrongful death claim against an alcohol impaired driver, this option may be insufficient to compensate the estate and family of a fatally injured accident victim. The nonprofit Insurance Research Council estimates that thirteen percent of Kansas drivers (260,000) have no insurance. Many more Kansas drivers carry only the minimum liability insurance required by law, which is $25,000 per victim and $50,000 for all injury or wrongful death victims. This amount of coverage does not begin to cover even the pecuniary losses to a family that loses a loved one in a fatal drunk driving accident.
The Kansas legislature could provide another source for drunk driving accident victims who suffer catastrophic injury or wrongful death to turn to for compensation. Because a substantial number of drunk driving accidents are caused by repeat offenders, it is hardly surprising that they have neither driver’s licenses or insurance. An uninsured drunk driver that causes a serious car accident can leave the victim with no place to turn for adequate financial compensation. Imposing liability on social hosts and commercial businesses that serve those who are clearly intoxicated or underage would make those who serve alcohol act responsibly to protect innocent victims who have no ability to protect themselves from intoxicated drivers. This would also provide a responsible culpable party in a wrongful death accident with the financial ability to pay a judgment.
We are an experienced Wichita wrongful death Firm. We have successfully represented the families of fatal Kansas drunken driving accident victims in seeking the financial compensation necessary to provide financial support after losing a loved one.
The Brave Law Firm, LLC offers an initial free consultation so that we can evaluate your case. We have offices in Wichita and Salina to better serve our clients. We invite you to call us and schedule your free consultation today at (855) 232-7283.