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Agents and brokers should be able to present underwriters with a full breakdown of how alcohol is sold and consumed at a business seeking coverage. This is critical to understand as this liability and exposure can differ based on the type of business. (Credit: Master1305/Shutterstock) Agents and brokers should be able to present underwriters with a full breakdown of how alcohol is sold and consumed at a business seeking coverage. This is critical to understand as this liability and exposure can differ based on the type of business. (Credit: Master1305/Shutterstock)

The microbrewery market is built on innovation — innovation in flavors, business models and even beer names. Yet this modern, clever and adaptable industry is beholden to some comparatively old rules, regulations and laws. So-called dram shop laws determine to what degree a bar or other seller of alcohol is liable for injury caused to or by their intoxicated patrons. These laws vary state-by-state, which means businesses in different states assume different levels of liability when they serve wine, beer and liquor. No matter the state, there are a few things insurance professionals should know about these laws and regulations to help limit insureds’ liability.

According to FindLaw, 43 states in the U.S. allow businesses to be held liable in cases in which they serve alcohol to individuals that end up causing injuries or death from intoxication. The most common of these laws prohibit establishments from serving minors or intoxicated customers. They also tend to prohibit serving outside of legal hours and outside the bounds set by their liquor licenses. There are other notable differences among dram shop laws. For example, Illinois and Minnesota have caps on settlements.

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