Can You Sue if You’re Injured in a Bar Fight?Bar fights are not an anomaly. They are so common that almost every Western and movie (or TV program) features at least one. While anything such as a sports game, a card game, an insult, or another person can trigger a fight, the common cause of most fights is the effects of being intoxicated.

According to FHE Health, one McGill University professor of psychology and psychiatry states that “alcohol is involved in half of all murders, rapes and assaults.” The organization references a study published in Cognitive, Affective, & Behavioral Neuroscience that studied how people respond to different social stimuli – with and without the influence of alcohol. The study found that drinking makes people less likely to control their reactions if they become annoyed or angry.

In simple terms, alcohol affects the part of the brain that lowers our inhibitions. This makes people who drink quicker to anger, or more likely to lose control of their emotions and reactions to situations. There’s a reason the phrase “angry drunk” is so common.

Healthline states that “alcohol is a central nervous system (CNS) depressant. It affects parts of your brain responsible for movement, memory, self-control, and basic functions like hunger and thirst.”

Patrons who participate in bar fights may be criminally charged with various criminal charges including disorderly conduct, assault, and manslaughter.

Who can be held responsible for a bar fight or brawl in Sevierville?

First, there is a difference between criminal and civil liability. Some people who start a fight or who attack someone in a bar may be charged with an assault. This is more likely to occur if they use a weapon and especially if someone is seriously injured or dies.

Our Sevierville personal injury lawyers coordinate your civil case with the criminal case. Normally, the criminal case against the person who hurt you is tried first. We may be able to directly use a conviction of the criminal charges in your civil case. Alternatively, we will seek to use any evidence the police and prosecution obtained to your advantage.

If a bar fight happens, we normally file a legal claim against one or more of the following:

  • The person who hit you or caused your injuries
  • The bar or tavern
  • The bouncer of security personnel if they used excessive force

When can a bar, tavern, or other liquor establishment be held liable for a bar fight?

The owners and operators of bars in Tennessee may be liable for your injuries or the death of someone killed in a bar fight based on two general principles:

Dram shop liability

Tennessee has a dram shop law that provides that a personal injury victim can file a lawsuit against a seller of alcohol if the sale of the alcoholic beverage or beer was the proximate cause of the person’s injury or the death of a loved one  and one of the following conditions apply; that the seller:

  • Sold the alcoholic beverage or beer to someone they knew was under 21 and that person caused the personal injury or fatality “as the direct result of the consumption of the alcoholic beverage or beer so sold.”
  • Sold the alcoholic beverage or beer to someone who was visibly intoxicated and that person caused the personal injury or fatality “as the direct result of the consumption of the alcoholic beverage or beer so sold.”

Premises liability

This principle holds that bars and taverns owe a reasonable duty of care to prevent harm to the people they invite or permit to use their property. The owners and managers of bars should know that drinking causes people who consume alcohol to become more aggressive. The crux of this type of premises liability claim is that the bar’s inaction constitutes “negligent security.” Essentially, the argument is that bars have a duty to anticipate fights and take preventive measures.

Sellers of alcohol:

  • Should anticipate that their patrons may become involved in fights, aggressive behavior, assaults, and physical violence, including shootings of other patrons.
  • Think through who uses their bar and when.
  • Hire experienced bouncers and security personnel to help protect other drinkers and non-drinkers such as servers.
  • Provide protocols for their bouncers and security personnel to ensure they don’t use excessive force. In many cases, just escorting a patron outside the bar should be enough to prevent a fight from starting.

Other preventive measures include the use of cameras and videos, limiting the number of people who can access a bar, monitoring the parking lots, having increased lighting, and other safety measures.

Can I file a personal injury claim if I participated in the bar fight?

If you did not start the fight, did not agree to the fight, and did not use excessive force; then you should be able to receive full compensation for your injuries. If you voluntarily agreed to the fight with another person, then neither person will have the right to file a personal injury claim

If the circumstances around the fight are unclear, then a determination by a judge or jury will be made about your complicity in the fight. You can file a claim if you are less responsible for the fight than the person who struck you. However, the amount of your damages award will be reduced by your degree of fault. For example, if your damages are $100,000 but your degree of fault is 10%, your award will be reduced to $90,000.

If you are accused of starting the fight or participating in the fight, our criminal defense lawyers can help you assert any legal defenses available. The defenses may include arguing that your version of what happened is different than what the other people involved in the fight say or that the victim’s injuries were due to other causes. Many defendants will argue that they didn’t throw the first punch – that they only fought in self-defense.

Bar fights often cause serious injuries. We demand compensation for all your current and future medical bills, lost income, pain and suffering, and scarring and disfigurement.

Intoxication is never an excuse for the use of force. It’s not just the person who hits you who should be held accountable. Bars, taverns, hotels, and any businesses that sell alcohol need to take preventive measures to protect their patrons.  At Delius & McKenzie, PLLC, our Sevierville personal injury lawyers have the experience, advocacy skills, and resources to hold defendants accountable when they cause harm to other people due to their negligence or lack of appropriate care.

To learn if you have a bar fight claim, please call us or use our contact form today to schedule a free consultation. We represent accident victims and families in Sevierville, Seymour, Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, and the surrounding Tennessee locations.