In the early morning hours of Feb. 12, 2010, a fatal car accident occurred on U.S. Highway 2 in Columbia Falls, Montana. Although this tragic accident happened nearly two years ago, the ensuing legal issues are still progressing through the court system.

A reportedly intoxicated driver, who police say had over three times the legal limit in his system at the time of the crash, had been drinking at a Flathead County bar since 7:30 p.m. the evening before the accident. The drunk driver attempted to pass the victim’s car on the road when he lost control and his truck and sideswiped the victim’s car, causing them both to roll into a ditch. The victim was ejected from her vehicle and died when her car rolled on top of her.

The drunk driver faced a criminal proceeding, and he is now serving a 20-year sentence in Montana State Prison. Criminal charges were also brought against seven bartenders, two of whom were the owners of the establishment. The charges were a result of continuously serving a patron who was knowingly intoxicated. According to video footage at the bar from the evening of the crash, it was evident that patrons of the bar “were served at every request” regardless of actions that clearly suggested they were drunk. However, criminal proceedings do very little to compensate the victims of a DUI accident.

The bar’s owners are also facing a completely separate civil suit brought by the Montana Department of Revenue in attempt to revoke their liquor license. While this action is different from the criminal proceedings, the evidence used is often the same. The case is still in its infancy and has not yet gone before a judge. A settlement might prevent a court ruling and result in a less severe penalty like a fine or being forced to sell their license to another party.

In addition, victims of drunk driving incidents have rights to seek compensation for injuries received as the result of an accident. This includes taking action against the intoxicated driver, those who served him liquor and also against the establishment that sold the alcohol. All could face liability for a DUI accident that occurred as a direct result of their actions.

Most people may not believe that a business could be liable for a drunk driving incident, but that is simply not the case. If an establishment knowingly served an intoxicated person without attempting to remedy a potential negative outcome, it too can be at fault. It is common knowledge that excessive drinking and driving can have horrible results, and everyone who takes part in such an event may be held accountable for the outcome.

Source: The Missoulian, “Flathead County bar could lose liquor license over fatal DUI,” Tristan Scott, Jan. 8, 2012