At a chemical and biological level, alcohol is a depressant. Many people are confused by this statement, because they often experience a “high” after they have been drinking and feel the effects. Alcohol provides this “high” because it has depressed those other parts of the brain that keep us in balance: the rational and logical parts of our brains so that our common-sense, caution, and fear are suppressed, along with our spatial and coordination faculties. All of these affects on our brains can negatively influence our ability to drive safely.
There is a well-established and known risk of alcohol impairing driving skill, which is of course why there are drunk-driving laws. When a person affected by alcohol ignores the reality of their condition, and chooses to drive anyway, the public is at greater risk than is reasonable. And as such, the law provides for legal action for accidents that results in personal injury or property damage caused by a drunk driver.
Law pertaining to the sale and supply of alcohol and alcohol related offenses is state-based, which is why there are differing bar-open times in the various states, different sales tax regimes, etc.
Oregon laws for driving under the influence of intoxicants can be found in both Statute and Common Law.
And the Oregon Legislature has taken the matter of alcohol-related injury so seriously that it is not only the offending driver who can be held liable. If you drive drunk, and you hit someone, especially if your action caused injury – the laws provide that the injury victim can receive compensation in a civil case as well as criminal charges. However, Oregon goes one step further and provides for the potential for lawsuits against the person who served the drunk driver alcohol.
There are three primary issues involved with pursuing the legal issues of liability. They involve the party that served the alcohol, the person who consumed it and the party who was injured.
And in regards to who served the alcohol, there are two categories: the venues and their trained staff (licensed by the Oregon Liquor Control Commission). It is important to note that the sale of alcohol is not the salient point – it is the serving of it that matters.
The law in Oregon does place a duty of care on those bars, taverns and restaurants which serve alcohol, requiring them to serve alcohol responsibly and to ensure that the consumer is not excessively affected and that they are not minors. That is, the training required to obtain a licence from the Oregon Liquor Control Commission to serve alcohol ensures that commercial staff are equipped to recognize when someone is “visibly intoxicated” and when they are to exercise their duty of care. Failure to stop the serving of alcohol to such patrons opens up the bar and its staff to possible liability issues.
A bar can also be sued if they served a minor with alcohol who later injures someone or themselves. There is no Statute governing a commercial host’s liability if they have served alcohol to an adult who later injures himself – only if he injures others. Under Oregon law, there may be a case to answer when the drinker has been injured himself and it would be for a jury to determine the bar’s culpability.
If you’ve been hit by a drunk driver, it is important to act quickly. If you want to sue a bad driver, in Oregon you usually have about two years to file. BUT if you want to also sue the bar or venue where the drunk driver was served alcohol, you will need to file a Dram Shop Notice (basically a specific type of letter notifying the bar of your intention to sue) within 180 days. Unless you have a legal background, it is often in your best interest to hire a Portland drunk driving victims attorney to help with this process because it can get complicated and you don’t want to run the risk of not receiving compensation for your injuries and property damages.