2024 Update to Maximum Compensation for injured parties under the Illinois Dram Shop Act

Feb 2, 2024

What is the Illinois Dram Shop Act?


In Illinois, and many other states, there is a statute that allows an injured person to sue the establishment responsible for selling alcohol to an intoxicated person that caused their injury. Illinois statute 235 ILCS 5/6-21 states that every person who is injured by an intoxicated person has a right of action against any establishment, licensed under the law to sell alcohol, who, by selling or giving alcohol, causes the intoxication of such person. 235 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 5/6-21. Many Dram Shop Act cases involve drunk drivers causing injury while driving home from a bar or pub, but the statute is not restricted to just driving under the influence cases.

This means that an injured person can hold an intoxicated defendant liable for causing their injury as well as a commercial alcohol seller liable for providing the alcohol that caused the intoxication. For a lawsuit against a commercial alcohol seller to be successful, there are multiple factors that the injured party must prove:

  1. The Defendant driver was intoxicated at the time of Plaintiff’s injury;
  2. The Defendant seller provided alcohol to the Defendant driver;
  3. The provided alcohol caused the Defendant driver’s intoxication; and
  4. Plaintiff’s injury occurred as a result of the Defendant driver’s intoxication.

The Illinois Dram Shop statute does limit how much money an injured party may recover from the defendants. Each year, the maximum recovery amount is adjusted based on the change in the consumer price index during the preceding 12-month calendar year. Starting on January 24, 2024, the maximum amount that an injured individual may recover for their physical injuries or property damage in the State of Illinoisis $85,578.54 per named defendant. Additionally, a family member or relative of a person killed can recover a maximum amount of $104,595.99 for either loss of means of support or loss of society. For specific cases brought against the State of Illinois, the maximum limit an injured party can receive is $2,488,564.06.


Case Study


A 2017 verdict coming out of the Appellate Court of Illinois, Second District demonstrates how the Dram Shop Act is applied and how liability attaches to a liquor establishment for the actions of a person who leaves their establishment intoxicated. In Chuttke v. Fresen, 2017 IL App (2d) 161018, 86 N.E.3d 1263, Diana Chuttke was injured when an intoxicated driver, Adam Fresen, crossed into Chuttke’s lane of traffic and struck her vehicle. It had been determined that prior to the accident, Fresen had become legally intoxicated at the Cadillac Ranch Texas BBQ & Boot Bar, Inc. (Cadillac BBQ).

Based on the Illinois Dram Shop Act 235 ILCS 5/6-21, Chuttke named Cadillac BBQ a defendant in the case. Chuttke claimed that because Cadillac BBQ was responsible for the alcohol that caused Fresen to become intoxicated, further resulting in the automobile accident that caused Chuttke’s injury, the establishment should be held liable for her injuries. The Illinois District Court and the Illinois Appellate Court affirmed Chuttke’s claim under the Dram Shop Act and held Cadillac BBQ liable for compensatory damages. Based on the injuries and the statute’s maximum recovery limit, Chuttke planned to receive $61,151.30 from Cadillac BBQ, but that was later reduced to $11,151.30 for legal reasons outside the scope of the Dram Shop Act. Hypothetically, based on the 2024 statute’s limits, Chuttke could have received up to $85,578.54 against Cadillac BBQ. Her recovery against Cadillac BBQ would not have any impact on her recovery against the drunk driver Fresen.


What Should I do if I am Injured by an Intoxicated Person?


In the event you are sustain injury caused by an intoxicated person, it can be helpful to know a few basic tips about what actions to take after the accident to maximize the potential of your legal claim. While the time immediately following an accident can be understandably hectic and traumatic, the truth is that these moments can be pivotal to a victim’s chances of recovering damages in the future. Here are a few tips for injured victims on how to act in the moments after the accident:

  • Seek medical attention. Your health is the top priority, so seeking medical attention should always be the first step after an injury. Obtaining the appropriate medical treatment for injuries and documenting that medical treatment is also an essential component of a personal injury case. Therefore, it is important to not only seek immediate medical treatment after the incident, but also to follow your doctor’s advice and attend as many medical appointments as necessary.
  • Take pictures and videos. Images of the accident scene can be a very helpful piece of evidence for almost all personal injury cases.  If possible, you should take pictures and videos of all relevant surroundings near the scene of the injury. Pertinent visuals could include your injuries, any damage caused by the accident, or the area nearby the accident. Moreover, if your accident occurred on a commercial property, there is also possibly some surveillance footage that could aid your case.
  • Prepare a police report. Any time you are injured and there is suspicion of alcohol playing a role in the injury, make sure to contact the police. The police will come to the scene and fill out a police report, which may become a vital piece of evidence in the lawsuit. The police will also question the alleged intoxicated person and arrest them if need be.
  • Collect witness information. Witness testimony confirming your account of the incident can be a valuable component of any personal injury case. Therefore, you should try to write down the names and contact information of anyone who witnessed the incident. If they had a clear view of the accident, these witnesses may end up providing key statements for your case.
  • Preserve key evidence. As the case progresses, you should keep copies of all accident-related documents. Examples of such documents could include accident reports, witness statements, medical records, or any notes taken regarding the accident.
  • Consult an attorney. Contacting an experienced personal injury attorney can help you understand the nuances and scope of your potential claim. Attorneys with knowledge and first-hand experience working on Dram Shop claims – such as the personal injury experts at Coffman Law – can typically provide a free consultation to discuss the potential of your case.



About Coffman Law Offices, P.C.

Coffman Law is Chicago’s leading personal injury law firm and is committed to providing superb legal representation for people who are suffering from severe personal injuries or are dealing with the loss of a loved one due to negligence or misconduct. Coffman Law is results-driven law firm focused on ensuring that clients receive the compassion, attention, and consideration that they need to seek adequate compensation for injuries or loss. The firm is led by Owner and Founding Partner Brian W. Coffman, who has dedicated his career to helping accident victims navigate the legal system and obtain compensation for their injuries.