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Civil liability for drunk driving in Georgia is a serious legal issue that addresses the repercussions faced by individuals who operate vehicles under the influence of alcohol. This liability extends beyond criminal penalties and concentrates on civil law liability, where victims of drunk driving accidents can seek compensation for damages. Georgia law permits individuals injured by a drunk driver or families of those killed to file civil lawsuits against the driver. These suits can demand compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, property damage, and emotional distress. Victims can pursue justice and compensation while at the same time holding the drunk driver accountable for the consequences of their actions. Gautreaux Law is a leading personal injury law firm serving Macon, Warner Robins, and other parts of Georgia. Our legal team has decades of experience. If a drunk driver has injured you, we can be there to help you navigate the laws surrounding your specific legal causes of action.

Civil Liability Issues As A Result Of Drunk Driving

  • Personal Injury Claims: If a drunk driver causes an accident, they can be held liable for any injuries or damages that result. Victims or their families can pursue actions against the drunk driver. Direct losses such as medical expenses, lost wages, and property damages can be recovered. In some cases, Georgia law allows for punitive damages in Driving Under the Influence (DUI) cases. The purpose is not to compensate the victim with these damages but to punish the offender and deter similar conduct in the future. Although Georgia law caps most punitive damages cases at $250,000, this cap generally does not apply to DUI cases.
  • Dram Shop Laws: Some states have separate statutes for dram shop and social host liability. Georgia, however, combines both theories of liability into a single statutory scheme, regardless of whether the alcohol provider is a business or a private individual. Under Georgia’s Dram Shop Act, a company or individual who knowingly serves alcohol to a visibly intoxicated person, who then causes injury or damage, can be held liable. The issue will be whether the server had known or should have known that the person served would soon be driving a motor vehicle. If such a person then causes harm in a drunk driving accident, the business could be responsible for damages. In addition, this law applies to hosts or individuals who serve alcohol in a non-commercial setting, like a private party. In Georgia, the scope of social host liability is generally more limited than the liability of commercial establishments. The law may hold a social host liable if they knowingly serve alcohol to a minor who then causes harm. However, serving alcohol to an intoxicated adult who then causes harm may not result in social host liability in Georgia.

The compensation you can recover in a civil dram shop claim parallels the types of damages available in other personal injury claims depending on the severity of your injuries, the treatment you require, how much ongoing care you need, and other factors. Common damages in Georgia civil suits include 1) medical bills, 2) ongoing care costs, 3) property damage, 4) lost wages, 5) limited income caused by disability, and 6) pain and suffering. 

  • Wrongful Death Claims: If a drunk driving incident results in a fatality, the family of the deceased may file a wrongful death claim. Compensation can include medical and funeral expenses, lost future earnings, and non-economic damages like loss of companionship. 
  • Insurance Considerations: In many cases, the drunk driver’s insurance company will be involved in settling claims. However, issues can arise if the driver’s insurance does not cover the damages. Victims may also seek compensation through their insurance policies if the drunk driver is uninsured or underinsured.

Legal Process Involved In Drunk Driving Cases

An individual injured by a drunk driver would usually file a civil claim in State or Superior court. The process involves filing a complaint, discovery, negotiations, and possibly a trial. In Georgia, the statute of limitations for personal injury claims is generally two years from the accident date. Remember that negotiations between parties in DUI-related civil claims often lead to settlements.


Liability arising from drunk driving in Georgia can be complex, involving a combination of criminal charges and civil liabilities. Individuals injured in drunk driving accidents have various avenues to seek compensation, while those accused face serious legal repercussions. Understanding these legal frameworks is crucial for anyone involved in such situations. You should seek legal advice from a highly qualified attorney for your situation. Gautreaux Law has attorneys with multiple years of experience handling personal injury matters. Once a client retains us, we make sure to always be there. We value clear and open communication and work hard to ensure that our clients know what is happening and the next steps in their case. Contact our firm for an initial complimentary consultation to help us determine if you have a solid case based on the individual circumstances surrounding your accident where a drunk driver injured you.