Colorado Dram Shop & Social Host Liability Laws


If you or a loved one was injured in a car accident caused by a drunk driver in Colorado, not only can you file a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault driver, but you may also sue the person or vendor who provided the driver alcohol prior to the crash.  

When these types of claims involve an alcohol vendor, such as a bar or restaurant, they are known as “dram shop” claims, while cases involving non-vendors serving alcohol are called “social host liability.” 

Dram Shop Law in Colorado 

According to Colorado’s dram shop law, vendors with a license to sell alcohol can be held responsible for any injury caused by a visibly intoxicated individual they provided with alcohol. For example, if a patron at a bar is slurring his words, has difficulty holding his glass, or struggles to sit on the stool, but the bartender continues to serve the patron anyway, if the patron later drives and crashes into another car, then both he/she and the bartender can be held liable for the collision. 

Additionally, if a vendor sells alcohol to a person under 21 years old and the underage driver later gets into an accident, the vendor can also be held responsible for the damages stemming from the crash. The underage driver does not have to appear intoxicated in order to file a dram shop lawsuit against an alcohol vendor. 

Colorado’s Social Host Liability Law 

As we mentioned earlier, social host liability occurs when a social host serves alcohol at a party or any other private setting. However, a social host can only be liable for injuries caused by a minor if the host knowingly served alcohol to the minor or knowingly allowed minors to consume alcohol at the event. 

When it comes to visibly intoxicated guests who are at least 21 years of age, a social host cannot be held responsible for any injuries such guests later cause – even if the host continued to serve alcohol to the guests after they became visibly intoxicated. 

Cap on Damages for CO Dram Shop Cases 

In Colorado, damages from dram shop and social host liability cases are capped or limited at $150,000. These damages consist of both economic (e.g., medical expenses, lost wages, property damage, etc.) and non-economic damages (e.g., pain and suffering, emotional distress, etc.). 

If you have suffered an injury in Colorado, contact the Law Office of Joseph A. Lazzara, P.C. today at (720) 809-8262 for a free initial consultation. Serving clients in Denver, Adams, Jefferson, Douglas, Arapahoe Counties.